Although most health care professionals agree that a miscarriage occurs when a fetus fails to develop properly, its true cause is up for debate. A recent study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s conference in Boston contends that a hazardous material, known as bisphenol A (BPA), found in plastic bottles and other household materials could contribute to a woman’s spontaneous loss of pregnancy.

According to the World Health Organization, BPA is an industrial chemical found in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin. Recent studies have analyzed the effects of BPA toxicity on the endocrine system of animals, but research on humans is limited.

A research team led by reproductive endocrinologist at Stanford University, Dr. Ruth Lathie, collected blood samples from 114 women who were four to five weeks pregnant. Each patient was assigned to a group depending on her level of BPA exposure. Pregnant women with the highest BPA levels were 80 percent more likely to have a miscarriage.

The implications of the results were not only applicable to women. BPA and similar compounds found in plastic or hazardous material can also decrease male fertility by 20 percent.

Dr. Lathie and her colleagues suggest to men and women who are trying to conceive that they avoid canned foods, cooking or heating up food in a plastic container, cash register receipts that potentially are covered in BPA resin, and plastic water bottles that have been left out in the sun.

"There are some simple things that people can do but it’s impossible to avoid it completely,” Dr. Lathi added. “Avoid anything that involves cooking or warming food in plastic as the chemicals leak out of plastic materials at a higher rate at higher temperatures."

Around 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage; however, some fear that the number is much higher because most miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that women don't even realize, according to the Mayo Clinic.