Phthalates: A Threat to Male Fertility

In November, a study was published that found exposure to phthalates in women was associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. We then wrote a blog post about the article and how women can limit their exposure to these toxins.

efd2acee8bb64a5c11b4863a5786c572It appears, however, that it is just as important for men to limit their exposure, as well. Last month, a study linked phthalate exposure to male infertility. The study followed 501 couples who were trying to conceive and measured the amount of phthalates in both partners’ urine. Researchers discovered that while both women and men were exposed to these toxins, the exposure adversely affected male fertility much more than female.

Phthalates are harmful because they are endocrine disruptors. Once in the body, they act as weak estrogens and can block the binding of other androgens, such as testosterone. Functions that rely on testosterone, such as spermatogenesis, are therefore affected. This is believed to lead to decreased sperm count and sperm quality.

A US study published in 2010 was the first to examine levels of BPA, a widely used phthalate, and infertility in humans. The study’s results were dramatic. “Compared with men whose urine was BPA-free, those who had detectable levels of BPA were four times more likely to have a below-average sperm count, three times more likely to have fewer “live” sperm than average, and two times more likely to have below-average sperm quality (motility).”

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how phthalates can decrease fertility, but the facts show a clear correlation. In light of this knowledge, it’s important for both men and women to limit their exposure to these toxins.

Phthalates are chemicals found in plastics and cosmetics. Phthalates lend flexibility to plastics, help your lotion absorb into your skin, add fragrance, and more. They are used in almost every cosmetic, aside from those labeled phthalate free. They are also used in many plastic containers, such as water bottles and food storage cases.

Phthalates are seemingly ubiquitous. The most common source of phthalates for Americans is our diet. Replace your plastic bottle with one made of glass, and buy glass food storage containers. Never microwave food in plastic containers. Phthalates can leach out of plastic and into your food. Choose canned foods that include “BPA free lining” on the label.

The second most common sources of phthalates are household products, including nail polish, hairsprays, shampoos, soaps, lotions, laundry detergents, cleaning supplies, and even vinyl flooring. Therefore, do whatever you can to replace these with phthalate free versions. Buy cosmetic and body products that include “Phthalate free” on the label. Many people think opting for unscented is a safe option because it doesn’t include the phthalates associated with scent. However, even products labeled unscented are almost always still scented with an unscented scent – so don’t think buying unscented is enough.

Lifestyle habits are the best way to avoid exposure to these toxins. Take the time to replace everyday items with those that are phthalate free to protect your fertility!

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