TUESDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- High blood levels of
cadmium in women and high levels of lead in males can make it
difficult for couples to conceive, new research suggests.
Cadmium is a metal that is used in batteries, metal coatings and
plastics, but the most common source of cadmium exposure is
cigarette smoke. Common sources of exposure to lead in the United
States include lead-based paints in older homes, lead-glazed
pottery, and contaminated soil and water.
Exposure to these toxic metals is known to have a number of
effects on human health, but their impact on human fertility has
not been extensively examined, according to researchers at the U.S.
National Institutes of Health and colleagues.
The new study included 501 couples in Michigan and Texas who
were trying to conceive. The couples were followed for up to one
year, or until pregnancy was confirmed. The women were aged 18 to
44 and the men were all older than 18.
Using statistical measurements of the participants' blood
concentration of the metals, the investigators found that, in the
women, the probability of pregnancy was reduced by 22 percent with
each increase in the blood cadmium concentration. In men, the
probability of conceiving was reduced by 15 percent for each
increase in their blood lead concentration.
The study was released online Feb. 4 in advance of publication
in an upcoming print issue of the journal
"Our results indicate that men and women planning to have children should minimize their exposure to lead and cadmium," principal investigator Dr. Germaine Buck Louis, director of the division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in an NIH news release.
"They can reduce cadmium exposure by avoiding cigarettes or by quitting if they are current smokers, especially if they intend to become pregnant in the future. Similarly, they can take steps to reduce their exposure to lead-based paints, which may occur in older housing, including during periods of home renovation," Louis advised.
He added that the "findings highlight the importance of
assessing couples' exposure jointly, in a single, combined measure.
Males matter, because couples' chances of becoming pregnant each
cycle were reduced with increasing blood lead concentrations in
While the study uncovered an association between higher
concentrations of these metals in blood and decreased fertility, it
did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
lead and how it affects health.