The Fertility “Dirty Dozen”

The American Fertility Association has released a “dirty dozen” list of factors that can negatively affect fertility. Although the list is interesting, it does not provide much practical guidance on changes an individual or couple can make to avoid these things – nor does it specifically state where one finds them in the first place. The list does, however, leave one more and more tempted to become a homebound hippie who avoids almost everything.

Copy paper? Red lipstick? Hair and personal care products? House dust? Toys? All contain one or more of the dirty dozen. The list is a bit vague, however, as to how much exposure will cause fertility problems, and what type of exposure is needed to do so. For example, what exactly does one need to do with shotgun shells – on the list of products containing lead – in order to experience reduced fertility?

Overall, I think the takeaway messages from the Dirty Dozen are:

  • Buy or grow fresh foods that are not laden with pesticides/herbicides. Avoid cans.
  • Use personal care and cleaning products that contain benign ingredients you have heard of, or use more natural alternatives (such as vinegar/baking powder/elbow grease for cleaning) instead.
  • Steer clear of plastics and artificial fragrances whenever possible.
  • Don’t use lawn chemicals and avoid places that do.

The list may be useful for convincing people to make these changes, but overall the changes themselves are more important than the specific rationale. Most people won’t know how to specifically avoid atrazine (#8 on the list), but eating food that are free of herbicides and avoiding lawn chemicals are attainable goals. I’d love to see a list that included recommended actions or items to avoid.

Thoughts? Add your comments here. 

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Camille Freeman (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and reproductive health. I faciliate the Monday Mentoring community of practice and offer continuing eduation programs for highly trained herbalists & nutritionists. I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.