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Importance of Air Quality in IVF Lab Success

To have a child through in vitro fertilization (IVF) takes dedicated, capable parents and an extraordinary laboratory.

The IVF laboratory is a crucial factor in our IVF success–any clinic’s–and is so fundamental that it’s in the very term IVF. The Latin in vitro of in vitro fertilization means “in glass,” literally, and “in the lab” figuratively. In glass means in a petri dish, in a test tube or in something other than the human body. In a lab.

Few appreciate that the quality of the air in an IVF laboratory directly affects not only embryo development, but also the consistency of IVF success. To achieve the end goal of a healthy baby mandates a laboratory that spares no effort or expenses to have the best possible air quality.


The IVF laboratory at the Frisco Institute for Reproductive Medicine has one of the best air systems available, which was custom designed for embryos after many years of experience.

Embryos have to breathe (absorb) air just like we do. These little embryos do not yet have a liver, spleen and kidneys to filter out pollutants in the air. Embryos in the petri dish have no protection and are in direct contact with the air that we breathe.

In an operating room, we are only concerned with bacteria, which are very small. However, in an IVF laboratory, we are concerned with smells and air pollutants that are represented by molecules many thousand times smaller than even a bacterium.

These compounds have ugly names such as CACs, VOCs and PCBs (chemical air contaminants, volatile organic compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls). Any one or combinations of these substances can easily end up in the petri dish through somebody’s perfume, cleaning solutions in the office, glues, paint fumes, off gassing from certain flooring, car exhaust in the parking lot or general air pollution. Just a short exposure to any of these compounds can irreversibly damage or kill embryos, resulting in a negative outcome for our patients.

Air pollution is especially a problem in a big city such as the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

To protect these vulnerable embryos and ensure consistent IVF success rates for all of our patients all of the time, it was necessary to equip the IVF laboratory and the operating rooms with very specialized air-pollution filtration systems (air scrubbers) at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our IVF lab was designed and built from the ground up with air quality in mind.

Purest air for your precious embryos

It’s not unusual for hospitals and surgery centers and even for IVF clinics to use bacterial or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) air filters. We have those too and it sounds good, but remember that air contaminants are thousands of times smaller than even the smallest bacterium. Therefore, in addition to the HEPA filters, we utilize multiple beds of activated carbon as well as a substance called permanganate, to remove these air pollutants, only allowing the purest air to enter the IVF laboratory.

Embryology Lab Air Purification System | Frisco Institute for Reproductive Medicine

As we hear on the news frequently, air pollution tends to be more serious during the hot summer months with an “air quality alert” frequently issued. This represents a a nightmare for an IVF laboratory. Not all IVF laboratories commit to the significant expense of filtering these pollutants in order to protect their vulnerable embryos. Without this shield in place throughout the year, IVF laboratories may frequently experience “unexplained” drops in their pregnancy rates, most frequently during the hot summer months. Embryos grown at the Frisco Institute for Reproductive Medicine benefit from some of the purest laboratory air in the United States. Therefore, we experience consistently excellent pregnancy rates without “unexplained” seasonal variation. The specific steps we take to clean our laboratory air and to protect the embryos in our care from air pollutants can be summarized as follows:

  • We start with the cleanest air possible to begin with by using a special raised air intake, facing away from known areas of pollution such as the parking lot and the highway.
  • The air system for the laboratory is totally separate from the system for the rest of the office and has been specially designed and dedicated for this purpose.
  • Air is filtered through six stages (see the illustration above). A prefilter to remove large particles, a second prefilter to remove all small physical particles larger than bacteria, activated carbon to remove a specific set of air contaminants, permanganate to remove pollutants not removable by the activated carbon, a first-stage post filter and finally a 99.9 percent HEPA filter to remove any bacteria and fungal spores.
  • Lab air temperature and humidity are precisely controlled to reduce the handling stress on embryos and minimize the risk of bacterial or fungal contamination.

Our patients appreciate the fact that we take these extra steps to not only ensure excellent results, but also consistent results. The standards we maintain far exceed the mandates and even recommendations by the following world governing bodies on assisted reproductive technologies:

  • The College of American Pathologists (CAP)
  • The European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology Guidelines for Good Practice in IVF Laboratories
  • The European Commission Directive on technical requirements for the coding, processing, preservation, storage and distribution of human tissues and cells
  • The European Guide to Good Manufacturing Practices
  • The American Society for Reproductive Medicine Guidelines for Human Embryology and Andrology Laboratories.

We are grateful that we can provide not only quality clinical care, but also protect our patient’s vulnerable embryos with a quality air shield, ensuring consistently excellent pregnancy rates. To have a baby through IVF is a journey requiring that many steps all go right. Increasing your odds of having a healthy baby is what we live for. Babysitting your embryos with the purest air possible is part of that commitment.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.