Alcohol, drugs, caffeine, tobacco, and environmental contaminant exposure: reproductive health consequences and clinical implications.
Reproductive function and fertility are thought to be compromised by behaviors such as cigarette smoking, substance abuse, and alcohol consumption; however, the strength of these associations are uncertain. Furthermore, the reproductive system is thought to be under attack from exposure to environmental contaminants, particularly those chemicals shown to affect endocrine homeostasis. The relationship between exposure to environmental contaminants and adverse effects on human reproductive health are frequently debated in the scientific literature and these controversies have spread into the lay press drawing increased public and regulatory attention. Therefore, the objective of the present review was to critically evaluate the literature concerning the relationship between lifestyle exposures and adverse effects on fertility as well as examining the evidence for a role of environmental contaminants in the purported decline of semen quality and the pathophysiology of subfertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and endometriosis. The authors conclude that whereas cigarette smoking is strongly associated with adverse reproductive outcomes, high-level exposures to other lifestyle factors are only weakly linked with negative fertility impacts. Finally, there is no compelling evidence that environmental contaminants, at concentrations representative of the levels measured in contemporary biomonitoring studies, have any effect, positive or negative, on reproductive health in the general population. Further research using prospective study designs with robust sample sizes are needed to evaluate testable hypotheses that address the relationship between exposure and adverse reproductive health effects.