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Keywords:

  • care seeking behavior;
  • education;
  • environment;
  • heavy metals;
  • infertility;
  • socioeconomic status

Objective. To analyze the possible environmental effects on infertility among couples living in the immediate neighborhood of a smelter and to study prevalence and risk factors of infertility as well as care seeking behavior among infertile couples in a random sample of a local population.

Methods. A questionnaire was distributed to 1,784 women between 25 and 44 years of age working at or living close to a copper smelter, and to women living further away from the smelter. The results were analyzed with a logistic regression.

Results. No environmental effects on infertility rates among couples living near the smelter were found. The prevalence of infertility, defined as having experienced a period of inability to conceive within 12 months of regular intercourse without contraception at some point in life, was the same between the neighbors and the reference population. The prevalence of primary and secondary infertility was 6% and 3%, respectively. Infertile women were characterized by having a significantly shorter education, OR 1.8 (CI 1.2-2.7), compared to women who had not experienced any fertility problems. Risk estimates for not seeking health care when having a low socio-economic status was OR 2.1 (CI 1.0-4.4) compared to those with a higher socio-economic status.

Conclusion. No environmental effects on infertility could be demonstrated. Infertile women were characterized by having a shorter education compared to the non infertile, and women with lower socio-economic status were less prone to seek help.