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Men’s health – what do toxic chemicals have to do with it?

Here at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, we often talk about the hazards that toxic chemicals can pose to women, children and babies.

Sometimes though, we overlook that for us guys, some toxic chemicals such as endocrine disrupting phthalates can also be harmful, particularly for our reproductive health.

As this week is national men’s health week, we thought it’d be the perfect time to talk about the connections between toxic chemicals and our reproductive health.

Toxic chemicals and men’s reproductive health

In recent decades, some men’s reproductive health problems have been on the rise, and scientific research suggests that toxic chemicals, especially hormone disruptors, may be contributing to these increases. As we point out in our health report:

  • “The birth defect resulting in undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) increased sharply between 1970 and 1993
  • Sperm counts have declined in men in some areas of the U.S., Europe, and Australia
  • According to a large study of men from the Boston area, testosterone levels in adult men are declining”

Mounting scientific evidence demonstrates that exposure to chemicals in every day products can reduce semen quality and lead to low sperm counts, male infertility, hormonal changes, testicular and even prostate cancer. Yuck.

Vinyl plastic chemicals and reproductive health problems

Phthalates and dioxins, chemicals uniquely released during the lifecycle of vinyl (PVC) plastic products, have notably been linked to a range of reproductive health problems in men. Vinyl is commonly used in everything from packaging of electronics (yes that nasty “blister” packaging that’s impossible to open) to the interiors of our cars. We call it the poison plastic, as it releases dangerous chemicals from production to use to disposal.

Phthalates, over 90% of which are used to soften vinyl plastic, have been linked to reproductive health problems including smaller penises and genital deformities in baby boys. Research has shown that exposure to various phthalates causes even more birth defects of the genitals – such as hypospadias (an abnormal location for the opening of the urethra on the underside of the penis) and undescended or small testicles – resulting in low sperm counts and infertility. Certainly health problems that should cause any man running.

Another class of chemicals, dioxins and furans, have also been linked to reproductive health problems in men including lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, and decreased testis size. Some studies have seen these effects even decades after dioxin-laden Agent Orange was even sprayed in Vietnam. Dioxins are notoriously released during the production and disposal of vinyl plastic and other chlorinated chemicals.

Let’s protect men’s health

Hormone disrupting chemicals that harm our reproductive health have no place in products we buy for our families – and that goes for us guys too!

The costs of inaction are tremendous. The financial consequences of these conditions are highly significant. In 2002, U.S. patients and their insurers spent an estimated $2.9 billion on infertility treatments alone.

That’s why we’re calling on the nation’s biggest retailers to Mind the Store and get dangerous chemicals off of store shelves.

Retailers can’t go it alone though. We need Congress to enact meaningful and real reform of our nation’s broken chemical safety system.

Will you join us and call on them to protect men’s health?