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Air pollution negatively impacts marker of female fertility

According to the Ovarian Reserve and Exposure to Environmental Pollutants (ORExPo) study, high levels of air pollution affect the ovarian reserve, a marker for female fertility based on the number of resting follicles in the ovary.

Researchers working on the ORExPo study took hormone measurements from over 1,300 Italian women between 2007 and 2017. They found that environmental chemicals and natural and artificial factors of everyday diet can disturb the biosynthesis, signalling, or metabolism of hormones. The researchers specifically looked at the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which is secreted by cells in the ovary and is recognized as a reliable marker of ovarian reserve.

These findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of ESHRE in Italy.

“The influence of age and smoking on AMH serum levels is now largely accepted,” said first author Professor Antonio La Marca from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, “but a clear effect of environmental factors has not been demonstrated so far.”

Upon taking the measurements of AMH from the approximate 1,300 participants, the data was logged and linked to patients’ age and residence, which could therefore allow researchers to investigate environmental impacts and consider a daily particulate matter (PM) as well as values of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a polluting gas that is the result of burning fuel.

1,463 AMH measurements collected from 1,318 women showed that serum AMH levels after the age of 25 were inversely related to age, as well as environmental pollutant defined as PM10, PM2,5m and NO2 — an association that was age-independent.

The lowest concentration of AMH, which, as Professor La Marca said, reflects “severe ovarian reserve reduction,” was found in subjects who were exposed to levels of PM10, PM2.5 and NO2 above 29.5, 22, and 26 mcg/m3 respectively — well below the upper limits recommended by the European Union and local authorities.

“By our calculations,” said Professor La Marca, “exposure to high levels of PM10, PM2.5 and NO2 increases the risk of having a severely reduced ovarian reserve by a factor between 2 and 3.”

Although this study confirms that age is a large determinant of AMH concentration, “Living in an area associated with high levels of air pollutants in our study increased the risk of severely reduced ovarian reserve by a factor of 2 or 3,” Professor La Marca confirmed.

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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Image Credit: Shutterstock/Fotos593

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