A new study led by environmental health scientist Richard Pilsner at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, one of the first to investigate whether preconception exposures to phthalates in fathers has an effect on reproductive success via embryo quality, found that exposures from select chemicals tested were associated with "a pronounced decrease in blastocyst quality" at an early stage in embryo development.
Phthalates are compounds found in plastics and personal care products that are estimated to be detectable in nearly 100 percent of the U.S. population. The authors believe theirs is the first prospective study to assess associations between paternal exposure to phthalates and embryo quality through the blastocyst stage in humans.
Pilsner and colleagues say their prospective study of 761 oocytes, or immature eggs, from 50 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) "provides the first data demonstrating associations between preconception paternal phthalate and phthalate alternatives and embryo development, in a critical step towards our understanding of the paternal contributions to reproductive success." Details appear in the current issue of Human Reproduction from Oxford University Press.