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expert reaction to abstract on air pollution and ovarian reserves

Research presented at the 35th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) demonstrates that ovarian reserve, a term widely adopted to reflect the number of resting follicles in the ovary and thus a marker of potential female fertility, has been found to be adversely affected by high levels of air pollution.


Prof Richard Anderson, Head of Section of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, said:

“This is an interesting and potentially important study linking air pollution with marked effects on women’s ovaries, but it’s important to note that it has not yet been published or gone through peer review. While levels of polluting chemicals were not tested in individuals, levels in the area in which they lived was associated with reductions in a hormone which reflects the activity of the ovaries.  While this does not suggest a short-term problem for women trying to fall pregnant, it might indicate that women exposed to high levels of pollution might have a shorter opportunity to achieve a family, and even an earlier menopause.  However this sort of study cannot clearly show cause and effect, and it might be another aspect of the women’s lifestyle or environment that is the key factor.”


Prof Ying Cheong, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Honorary Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, University of Southampton, said:

“This study reveals the impact of air pollution on a woman’s ovarian reserve, but it is yet unclear if this impact is permanent and if it detrimentally influences conception per se. It is yet not known if this translates into a higher incidence of infertility in geographical locations where pollution rate is higher.”


The abstract ‘Ovarian Reserve and Exposure to Environmental Polutants (ORExPo study)’ by Antonio La Marca et al. was presented at the 35th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) on Tuesday 25 June. 


Declared interests

Prof Richard Anderson: No conflicts of interest.

None others received.

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