Addressing the Impact of Environmental Factors on Human Fertility and Reproductive Health: Insights and Actions from ESHRE



Fertility is currently under-represented in the public debate about the impact of the environment on health. To address this oversight, ESHRE convened an expert meeting in May last year in Brussels. The event which was also livestreamed brought together world-renowned experts who presented compelling data on the profound effects of climate change, air pollution, hormone-disrupting chemicals and other harmful substances on fertility and reproductive health.

Evidence highlighted at the meeting included that soot pollution particles can cross the placenta to reach babies in the womb; that women living near busy freeways have increased infertility; and that many pharmaceuticals that could pose a risk to male and female fertility are not classified under EU regulations. The presentations had a profound impact on the ESHRE community, sparking debate and inspiring action.

The first step following the meeting was to draw up recommendations with the intention of emphasising the growing threat from climate change, pollutants, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic substances, and other related risks to fertility and reproduction. A total of eight proposals were published the week after the event, advocating for heightened awareness of the treat of environmental stressors, increased support for research, and preventative measures to reduce exposure to environmental stressors in men and women. Professor Willem Ombelet said at the time: “The EU has been proactive in limiting exposure to environmental factors such as toxic chemicals and pollution. But more measures are needed to address the alarming impact on male and female fertility”.

Making this his personal mission, Professor Ombelet has driven the development of fact sheets that were written by the experts that participated in the event. With an overwhelming amount of information to share and messages to formulate, the challenge lay in presenting the information clearly, with focused recommendations relevant to policymakers. The aim has always been to initiate change and the resulting four fact sheets on air pollution, climate change and reproductive health; environmental exposure and female reproductive health; male reproductive health; and offspring health were an first important step (1-5).

ESHRE did not wait for policymakers to act. Inspired by the insights from the expert meeting, the ESHRE leadership decided in 2024 to allocate one of the grants awarded biennially through the Research Grant framework to a project entitled The Influence of Environmental Pollutants on Fertility. The fact researchers are ready to tackle the challenges in this area is demonstrated by a record 128 submissions for this grant.

While only one project can be selected for the ESHRE Research Grant, ESHRE remains hopeful that alternative funding sources will support the other worthy projects. It is imperative that further research is carried out into a variety of issues: mapping the reasons for the decline in fertility globally and the shift in reproductive trends, environmental factors causing reproductive diseases and infertility, and the impact of climate change on fertility, pregnancy and the health of the offspring.


  1. Factsheet on air pollution, climate change and reproductive health (March 2024)
  2. Factsheet on environmental exposure and female reproductive health (March 2024)
  3. Factsheet on environmental exposure and male reproductive health (March 2024)              
  4. Factsheet on environmental exposure and offspring health (March 2024)               
  5. Key facts on environmental exposure, fertility and reproductive health (March 2024)


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