Reproductive effects of nanomaterials

Reproductive effects are changes in fertility or impaired development that occurs before or after birth.

Women may face difficulties in getting pregnant due to changes in their reproductive (oestrus) cycle, or experience complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Men may experience changes in sperm cell production or quality that diminish their fertility. 

Exposure to chemicals can also affect puberty and sexual behaviour. Developmental effects include any alterations in the growth or development of organs, resulting in structural and functional changes.

Testing for reproductive and developmental toxicity

To test for reproductive and developmental toxicity, animals are still used in studies. The chemical being tested is usually given orally or through inhalation over a specified period, both before and during pregnancy. Some studies may continue for more than one generation to gather more detailed information on potential harmful effects.

Currently, there is limited information available about the potential reproductive effects of nanomaterials. Typically, harmful effects occur after a chemical dissolves in the body, for example, after oral exposure in the gut when the chemical is absorbed into the bloodstream and reaches all organs. However, many nanomaterials have poor solubility and may not dissolve in the body. 

Some studies suggest that nanoparticles may pass through cells due to their small size and end up in the bloodstream, but more research and systematic testing are needed to fully understand their reproductive effects.