Exposure to Phthalate during Pregnancy Can Affect Fertility of Males in the Future

By Bia nails (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What is known as the “everywhere chemical” has become a new threat to pregnant women. Most people have heard about phthalates, chemicals responsible for making plastic soft and pliable. However, a recent study has revealed the chemical needs to be avoided by pregnant women, because it can have negative effects on the fertility of their sons.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates are a family of chemicals used in plastics and a lot of other types of products. These chemicals are used to give plastic its softness and to increase the flexibility. It is used in countless numbers of consumer products we use every day.

How Can You Be Exposed?

Phthalates are used in a large variety of different consumer products. You’ll find this chemical in the enteric coatings on pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements, as well as in gelling agents, lubricants, detergents, medical devices, children’s toys, modeling clay, waxes, paints, adhesives and much more. Personal care items that contain phthalates include perfumes, liquid soaps, hairsprays, moisturizers, nail polish, and eye shadows.

Phthalates are also found in many modern electronics and medical devices such as catheters and blood transfusion equipment. The chemical is used in paint pigments, sex toys, food containers, floor tiles, fishing lures made of soft plastic, shower curtains, vinyl upholstery and cleaning materials.

It’s possible for a pregnant woman to be exposed through contact with any or all of these products.

The Study

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana from Seattle Children’s Hospital found that pregnant women exposed to the chemical had male offspring who suffered adverse consequences. She states, “Only the boy babies were affected by these chemicals and it’s thought to be because the chemicals affect testicular development in the fetus.” This fact can have dire consequences on the future fertility of these baby boys.

How Can Exposure Be Reduced?

Dr. Sathyanarayana said that a pregnant woman can reduce her exposure to phthalates by, “A varied diet that focuses on fresh foods and vegetables. The more fresh they are, the less likely they are to have these chemicals.”

How you fix foods is also important. Plastic that’s exposed to sources of heat seems to be a point of concern, she says, “I’m not as concerned about wrappings or holders as I am about frozen foods like TV dinners that you heat the actual food in the plastic.”

Because phthalates are so common and in so many ingredients, it is impossible to get down to a zero exposure level. The best thing a pregnant woman can do is avoid the chemical as much as possible. If a pregnant woman must use plastics, she should make sure to avoid the ones labeled with the recycling symbol number 3.

For more information on limiting exposure to phthalates, you can find a wealth of information available online and then make the necessary adjustments to your own daily life.


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