IVF success drops nearly 40% with air pollution exposure: study

Exposure to fine particulate matter, a common air pollutant, can significantly decrease the odds of a successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, even in areas with good air quality, a new study found.

The Australian study published Sunday in the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology found that exposure to pollution before the retrieval of eggs during IVF can reduce the odds of achieving a live birth by almost 40 per cent.

“Climate change and pollution remain the greatest threats to human health, and human reproduction is not immune to this,” said Dr. Sebastian Leathersich, lead author of the study and a fertility specialist based in Australia.

“We found that increased exposure to particulate matter pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) in the weeks and months before egg collection were associated with reduced live birth rates, regardless of the pollution levels at the time of the embryo transfer,” he told Global News in an email sent Thursday.

Outdoor air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health and is estimated to cause over four million premature deaths per year worldwide, a 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) report found.

Exposure to fine particulate matter is associated with a range of adverse health conditions, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancer, the WHO reported.

Health Canada estimates that air pollution contributes to 15,300 premature deaths annually in Canada, with many more people losing days suffering from asthma and acute respiratory symptoms as a result of pollution.

When it comes to air pollution and IVF, the researchers said little has been studied.“This is the first study to look specifically at frozen embryo transfers, accounting for the conditions at the time of egg collection and those at the time of embryo transfer,” Leathersich said.“Given more and more women having IVF are using frozen embryo transfers, where the embryos can be used months or years after the eggs are collected, we wanted to look at whether the pollution levels around the time of egg collection or around the time of embryo transfer were more important.”

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