Chemicals (phthalates) that threaten male fertility and children’s health

A study was conducted on 501 American couples to study the impact on fertility of some chemicals we all deal with on a daily basis.

Both men and women have been exposed to known substances and male fertility has been shown to be particularly affected.

The gap between the effects on men and women was particularly wide when it came to phthalates , ubiquitous compounds used to make plastic more flexible for example, but also in lotions and cosmetics. The women in the study who used cosmetics had higher levels of phthalates in their bodies, detectable by urinalysis. However, only in males were the levels of phthalates correlated with infertility.

Phthalates belong to a group of industrial compounds known as endocrine disruptors because they interfere with the endocrine system, which regulates the production and distribution of hormones in the body. They have been implicated in a number of health problems, including birth defects, cancer, and diabetes.

Their effect on the human reproductive system is extremely concerning. Some studies suggest that phthalates can impair male reproductive capacity: from testicular development to sperm quality.

It’s a finding that comes as no surprise.   Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas and editor-in-chief of the journal Endocrinology, said that recent cell studies, animal studies, and various epidemiological studies like this one all get similar results: phthalates have a  very bad influence  on male fertility.

The focus on male fertility dates back to the early 1990s, when American and European researchers published a paper suggesting the correlation between steadily declining sperm quality and exposure to chemicals. One of the authors, Niels Skakkebaek, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen, has suggested that an increase in malformations in male reproductive systems, which he calls “testicular dysgenesis syndrome”, may be linked to exposure to environmental compounds including endocrine disruptors such as the phthalates.

Women also produce androgens, but to a lesser extent. Testosterone is involved in the hormonal cascade that leads to follicle maturation for example. And therefore, from this point of view, phthalates could also negatively affect female fertility.

But to what extent and how much do phthalates interfere? This is still being studied.

There are also several types of phthalates which only complicate the picture: some seem to have a much greater effect than others. And we must not forget that these compounds are not the only factors (chemical or otherwise) to influence human fertility. A group of American researchers is currently examining a range of industrial compounds, including heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, which tend to accumulate in the body.

Phthalates , on the other hand, tend to be metabolized within hours. Their impact would not be as profound were it not that people are constantly exposed to them. And continued exposure keeps phthalate levels consistently high in the body.

And this happens not only to adults but also to children.

Phthalates are not only found in cosmetics and plastic materials but also in fabrics, detergents, household products, in the capsules of some medicines, etc.

They are also present in toys unfortunately.

See how to protect children from phthalates.

How can you come into contact with phthalates as little as possible?

First of all, just learn to carefully read the labels of cosmetics and other personal care products and then choose those without phthalates. Choose   quality  toys for our children , paying attention to the origin,  certifications  and  materials  used for manufacturing.

It is preferable not to use plastic containers to heat food and drinks  because  the phthalates they contain can be transferred to what is consumed.

It would be better to use glass containers.

These little tricks can make all the difference. In fact,  lower levels of phthalates have been measured within days in people who have made these small lifestyle changes.

It doesn’t take much.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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