Public Release: 

Environmental toxins limit daughters' fertility, study suggests

Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute

(Toronto, ON, November 21, 2007) -- A study by a research team at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital suggests that mothers who are exposed to certain toxic environmental compounds prior to pregnancy could limit their offspring's fertility.

The study, published in the December 3, 2007 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, provides evidence derived from a mouse model that exposure to the compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) prior to conceiving and when lactating reduces the number of eggs in the ovaries of female offspring by two-thirds. PAHs are known carcinogens and one of the most widespread organic pollutants. The compounds are found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, fumes from wood stoves, and in charred and smoked foods.

"The impact of this research is significant," said Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research for the Lunenfeld. "While the anti-smoking message is clear, these findings serve as a preventative measure for all Canadians and should raise awareness of common environmental toxins."

PAHs accumulate in the body's breast and fatty tissues before pregnancy and are later released into the blood during pregnancy, affecting the fetus.

"While young girls and women may not have thought about their reproductive future, exposure to these toxins now may reduce the fertility of their children," said Dr. Andrea Jurisicova, lead researcher of the study, Assistant Professor at University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Molecular and Reproductive Medicine at the Lunenfeld.

The reduction of eggs in a woman's ovaries can lead to premature menopause which not only limits reproduction, but is also associated with osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke and depression.

"This kind of research has important potential implications for future generations. The findings underline the importance of funding and designing cohort and other epidemiologic studies to assess the reproductive and child health effects of exposure to PAHs and other environmental toxins in human populations," said Dr. Michael Kramer, based in Montreal and Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth (IHDCYH).


About Mount Sinai Hospital

Mount Sinai Hospital is recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence in the provision of compassionate patient care, teaching and research. Its key priority programs are Women's and Infants' Health, Surgical Subspecialties and Oncology, Internal Medicine and Subspecialties, and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. It is a University of Toronto-affiliated patient care, teaching and research centre. For more information on Mount Sinai Hospital, please visit

About the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital

The Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, a University of Toronto affiliated research centre, established in 1985, is one of the world's leading centres in biomedical research. 32 principal investigators lead research in diabetes, cancer biology, epidemiology, stem cell research, women's and infants' health, neurobiology and systems biology. For more information on the Lunenfeld, please visit

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 11,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

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