Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Phthalates and Other Compounds Lead to Infertility

Infertility is a common problem for many couples trying to conceive in the U.S., and statistics show that 1 out of 10 couples will have trouble becoming pregnant at some point.  Recent evidence suggests that this struggle with infertility can be exacerbated by chemical compounds called hormone disruptors in our environment. When in the body these hormone disruptors act like naturally occurring hormones, including sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and can disrupt normal body functions.

From previous research, we already know of several such hormone disruptors that impact fertility including bisphenol A (BPA), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), pesticides, and PCBs.  The newest culprit to join this group is phthalates.  Phthalates are chemicals found in plastics, personal care products, and a variety of building materials and are used to add flexibility, transparency, and durability.  They also have the unfortunate side effect of contributing to infertility.  In women, phthalates can lead to endometriosis, which is a condition related to infertility.  In men, phthalates can lower testosterone levels, leading to lowered sperm quality.

A recent study in Italy examined the levels of phthalates in the urine of couples unsuccessfully attempting to conceive and couples who had recently had children in an effort to determine the impact of phthalates.  Fifty-six couples participated in the study.  After examining the data, the researchers found that the couples who were not yet able to conceive had three to five times higher levels of phthalates in their urine compared to those couples who were able to conceive naturally.   

Because of their properties, phthalates are everywhere in our environment and can be hard to avoid.  However, there are several things we can do to help cut phthalates, and other chemical compounds that impact fertility, out of our lives.  Here are some tips on avoiding hormone disruptors and increasing your family:

·         Out with the old plastic, in with the new glass!  Throw out your old and used plastic containers and replace them with glass containers, that way you avoid phthalates and BPA in one fell swoop!

·         Toss the vinyl products, including faux leather and shower curtains.

·         Invest in stainless steel and cast iron.  Your food will taste better and you will avoid the chemical PFOA used in nonstick pans.

·         Go organic!  Organic fruits and veggies won’t have harmful pesticides on them.  Buying organic personal products such as shampoo, soaps, and lotion will also help you avoid phthalates.

~ Jessica


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