Political and legislative action needs to be taken to reduce the impact of environmental factors on reproductive health, according to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), which has published eight recommendations.
These include a call for a Europe-wide digital platform to collect data monitoring of environmental impacts on reproductive health, and on the European Union to update rapidly relevant chemical regulations to minimise exposures to harmful substances and go further with climate change mitigation effects.
ESHRE executive committee member and Belgian infertility expert Professor Willem Ombelet said: 'The EU has been proactive in limiting exposure to environmental factors such as toxic chemicals and pollution. But more measures are needed to address the alarming impact on male and female fertility'.
The recommendations assert that there is a 'well-established link between widespread infertility and environmental factors' and recommends the public are made aware of the risk of environmental exposure to certain chemicals on reproductive health. Efforts must be made to ensure that the potential life-long risks of exposure are considered from the pre-conception stage, it states.
Professor Ombelet went on: 'Current and future generations must be protected through tougher action. Prevention strategies are needed even before people consider starting families. Members of the public also need to know the risks they face from the environments in which they live and work. They can develop awareness if this data is made widely available.'
As well as calling for political and legislative action, the recommendations also call on the pharmaceutical and industrial chemical sectors to test for harm on gametes and fertility, as standard, before chemicals are introduced into the European market. It argued current testing standards that focused on determining safety in pregnancy were 'not sensitive enough to identify the effects on fertility and gametes.'
Recommendations were published after a seminar, 'The Impact of the Environment on Human Fertility and Reproductive Health' was held by the Society on 11 and 12 May 2023. It included a focus on the impact of chemicals and endocrine disruptors on fertility and human development.
The Society has promised further factsheets summarising key findings, as well as a paper, to help disseminate knowledge to a wider audience in future.
By Emma Lamb and Hannah Flynn for Bio News