Polychlorinated biphenyls, otherwise known as PCBs, have been linked to infertility and failed in vitro fertilization attempts per results of a study completed by the University of Michigan School of Public Health. A team of researchers led by John Meeker, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University, published results of a study linking PCBs to failed IVF attempts in the online publication of Environmental Health Perspectives on February 24, 2011.
The team studied data regarding 765 IVF attempts and linked the presence of PCBs to infertility and other reproductive issues. Meeker stated: "These findings may help explain why these chemicals were associated with fertility issues in other studies." The University of Michigan study discovered PCBs may reduce the chance of a live birth following IVF by as much as 40 percent. The team tested blood samples and detected 57 different PCBs in the systems of the women attempting to conceive by IVF. The group weighed total PCB exposure and specific levels of PCBs identified as congners 118, 138, and 153.
The study found that women with the highest levels of PCB 153 and total PCBs had twice the risk of implantation failure, compared with women with the lowest levels. Among the group, only 286 IVF pregnancies resulted in live births, with 229 IVF attempts due to implantation failure and 301 IVF pregnancies resulting in miscarriage. The researchers concluded that women with the highest blood levels of PCBs were 40 percent less likely to give birth.
PCBs are compounds used within the United States and many other countries during the 1970s in industrial materials. PCBs were widely used and resistant to breakdown and are linked to multiple health problems, including reproductive issues. Present exposure to PCBs mostly occurs by eating foods, specifically dairy products and seafoods, containing the compounds.