Scientists from Boston University revealed women who live close to major roads may struggle to become pregnant, and warned though small, the risk could pose a ‘global health problem’.
- Areas of heavy pollution and traffic are linked to infertility, a study found
- Women who live near major roadways have 11% higher risk of infertility
- City couples with fertility issues may want to relocate, scientists suggest
Living in the city can harm a woman’s fertility, scientists revealed.
The high levels of air pollution and traffic fumes associated with heavily populated areas increases a woman’s risk of infertility, according to a new study from Boston University.
Furthermore, city dwellers are far more likely to have fertility problems than those who live in the country – because country air is cleaner.
Dr Sajal Gupta of Cleveland Clinic, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters: ‘Couples suffering from infertility need to exercise caution especially if they are residing in areas with high ambient particulate matter.
‘Relocating to areas with low contamination of particulate matter is an alternative to prevent adverse impact on fertility.’
However, researchers cautioned, the increased risk was only slight.
The study followed more than 36,000 women from 1993 to 2003.
Scientists analyzed air pollution and traffic exhaust near their homes to see if there is a link between the air they breathed and their ability to conceive.
During the study period, there were nearly 2,500 reported cases of infertility.
Women who lived within 199 meters – or about a tenth of a mile – of a major roadway were 11 per cent more likely to experience fertility issues, the study found.
Lead study author Dr Shruthi Mahalingaiah said: ‘The risks are slight.’
However, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, a researcher at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said even the slight increased risk can present a global health problem.
Dr Nieuwenhuijsen said: ‘For an individual woman, the results may not be that important because the risk of infertility only increases slightly, but for society as a whole it is important because so many women are exposed to pollution.’
The study examined data on particulate matter – which is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that include dust, dirt, soot and smoke – found near the participants’ homes.
The scientists also assessed how close their homes were to major roads.
The team of researchers focused on primary infertility – which is when a woman tries to conceive for at least a year without success.
They also looked at secondary infertility – which occurs when a couple struggles to conceive again after having at least one prior pregnancy.
Those who lived close to major roads were five per cent more likely to report primary infertility.
And, those same women were also 21 per cent more likely to report secondary fertility than women who lived further away.
The link between air quality and fertility problems was found even in areas with less polluted air.
But, the association became stronger as the pollution levels increased.
However, the scientists didn’t know the exact dates when conception efforts started or infertility was diagnosed, which could provide a limitation to the study’s finding.
Dr Mahlingaiah added that while the study is one of the first of its kind to follow women over such a long period of time, more research is needed before any medical recommendations are made.
Yet, Dr Christopher Somers of the University of Regina, who wasn’t involved in the study, said: ‘Air pollution is worse near major roads with high traffic volumes, so avoid living in these areas if you can.
‘If this is not an option, pay attention to air quality advisories and adjust outdoor activities accordingly.’
The study was published in the journal Human Reproduction.