Higher blood levels of cadmium in females, and higher blood levels of lead in males, delayed pregnancy in couples trying to become pregnant, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other academic research institutions.
Cigarette smoke is the most common source of exposure to cadmium,, a toxic metal found in the earth's crust, which is used in batteries, pigments, metal coatings and plastics. Smokers are estimated to have twice the levels of cadmium as do non-smokers. Exposure also occurs in workplaces where cadmium-containing products are made, and from the air near industrial facilities that emit cadmium. Airborne cadmium particles can travel long distances before settling on the ground or water. Soil levels of cadmium vary with location. Fish, plants, and animals absorb cadmium from the environment, and all foods contain at least low levels of the metal.
Lead, a toxic metal also found in the earth's crust, is used in a variety of products, such as ceramics, pipes, and batteries. Common sources of lead exposure in the United States include lead-based paint in older homes, lead-glazed pottery, contaminated soil, and contaminated drinking water.
Exposure to these metals is known to have a number of effects on human health, but the effects on human fertility have not been extensively studied, especially when studying both partners of a couple.
The study was published online in Chemosphere. The study's principal investigator was Germaine M. Buck Louis, Ph.D., director of the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research at the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Other authors of the study were from the NICHD, the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, College Station; The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus; The EMMES Corp. in Rockville, Md.; the National Center for
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NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development