Last updated on Mar 31st, 2015 at 09:11 am

Women’s fertility and the air we breathe

Ground-level ozone is an air pollutant that can adversely affect lung and heart health. Now new research suggests high levels of ozone could also affect women’s fertility.

“It is important that we know what is in the air that we breathe and understand how it can affect our health,” said Patricia Silveyra, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and leader of the research team.

“We don’t know a lot about the damaging effects of ozone, but since it does increase inflammation in the lungs, it is possible that this inflammation could affect more than one system in the human body.”

Studying the effects of air pollution on fertility

Silveyra and her team were studying the effects of ozone on lung inflammation in mice when they discovered that short exposures to ozone affected female levels of progesterone, a major reproductive hormone involved in ovulation and pregnancy.

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“We found that breathing ozone on the day of ovulation not only decreased progesterone levels in female mice, but also reduced the number of ovulated eggs,” explained Carla R. Caruso, M.D., and resident physician at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Caruso will present this research at the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) Annual Meeting during the Experimental Biology 2015 meeting. “In addition, this acute exposure to ozone affected important brain and ovarian signalling events that are key for the ovulation process,” adds Caruso.

Based on their findings, the researchers postulate that women in large cities could experience fertility issues from inhaling high concentrations of ground-level ozone. However, they caution that their findings are preliminary and that the research involved only mice, not people.

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) via

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