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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

A Threat to Male Fertility – NYTimes.com

A Threat to Male Fertility – NYTimes.com.

 

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

But it is their effect on the human reproductive system that hasmost worried researchers. A growing body of work over the last two decades suggests that phthalates can rewire the male reproductive system, interfering with the operation of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, that play key roles in male development. That mechanism, some experts believe, explains findings that link phthalate exposure to changes in everything from testicular development to sperm quality.”

There are different kinds of phthalates complicating the picture; some seem to have a much larger effect than others. And these are far from the only factors, chemical and otherwise, that influence human fertility. Dr. Buck Louis’s group is looking at a broad range of industrial compounds, including heavy metals like lead and cadmium, that tend to accumulate in the body.

Phthalates, by contrast, tend to be metabolized within a few hours. Their impact would not be so profound if it were not that people are constantly exposed from multiple sources.

These include not only cosmetics and plastics, but also packaging, textiles, detergents and other household products. Phthalates are found in the tubing used in hospitals to deliver medications; in water flowing through PVC pipes; enteric coatings on pills, including some aspirin; materials used to create time-release capsules; and countless other products. In 2008, the government banned them in children’s toys, and the European Union is also moving forward on restrictions.

“The W.H.O. called them ‘pseudopersistent’ in one report,” Dr. Woodruff said, because continued exposure keeps phthalates in the body. But here’s the silver lining: the transient nature of these compounds also means that consumers can take fairly simple measures to reduce their phthalate levels.

One is to read the labels on cosmetics and other personal care products and to choose those without phthalates. Another is to be cautious with plastic food containers, and to avoid using them to heat food and drink, as the phthalates in them may get transferred to what you consume.

“These compounds leach from plastics,” Dr. Buck Louis said. “You can switch to glass for drinking. You can cook your frozen dinners on paper plates.”

Studies have shown that these kinds of actions do make a difference; experiments have found measurably lower levels within several days in people who make these changes.

“Lifestyle has an important place here,” said Dr. Buck Louis.”


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March 26, 2014 - Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , ,

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