When men have higher levels of urinary phthalates conception may be delayed significantly according to a study published in Fertility and Sterility, 2014. This study followed 501 couples as they tried to conceive between 2005 and 2009 and assessed the effects of common reproductive toxins upon time to conception.
Phthaltes are industrial chemicals which are used to soften plastics and are found in vinyl PVC products, plastic food wraps, food packaging and food processing equipment. Phthalates are ubiquitous in personal care products and fragrance and unless you make a conscious effort to avoid them, you probably have phthalates running through your body most of the day which may hinder fertility markedly.
Phthalates can be ingested from plastic residues in foods, inhaled from indoor air and absorbed through the skin from personal care products such as moisturizer, deodorant and fragranced products.
Once in the body, phthalates break down into a variety of metabolites which exit via the urine. Despite their speedy metabolism and elimination, phthalates can have a significant effect upon reproduction simply because most people tend to have almost constant phthalate exposure. The more personal care products you use daily, the greater your body burden of phthalates will be. When you take steps to curb phthalate exposure your body burden will drop rapidly which may speed time to pregnancy markedly.
In this study fourteen phthalate metabolites were assessed from urine samples and correlated with time to conception. A handful of phthalate metabolites, namely monomethyl, mono-n-butyl, and monobenzyl phthalates, were linked with a prolonged time to pregnancy.
"Select male but not female phthalate exposures were associated with an approximately 20% reduction in fecundity..."
Want to get to know your phthalates?
Monomethyl phthalate is a metabolite, or breakdown product, of dimethyl phthalate (DMP) which is used in personal care products, insect repellants and plastics and is known to be present in food.
Mono-n-butyl phthalate is a breakdown product of dibutyl phthalate (DBT) which is found in the air above PVC flooring, in food, especially fish and seafood, and has been found in 67% of perfumed products (2). Dibutyl phthalate is used extensively in fragranced products and is also used in enteric coated, time release medications (3).
Monobenzyl phthalate is a metabolite of the plasticizer benzylbutyl phthalate (BBP) which is found in plastic and vinyl PVC products such as flooring, fake leather and food production conveyor belts.
Word to the wise: if you want to get phthalates out of your body you may want to follow a few simple rules.
* Stick to 100% organic or phthalate-free personal care products including soaps, deodorants, shampoo and conditioner.
*Avoid applying fragrance or fragranced moisturizers and lotions to your body unless they are 100% organic or phthalate-free.
*Avoid using vinyl PVC flooring or other vinyl/PVC products in your home especially your shower curtain and floor tile.
*Curb your use of fast-foods and heavily packaged, processed foods that have had exposure to conveyor belts and plastic food packaging. Think about where your food has come from and how much plastic it has been exposed to.
The researchers of this study emphasize the importance of assessing both partners phthalate exposure which is very sage advice. However, few couples are ever questioned about phthalate exposure before fertility treatments or educated on how to curb phthalate absorption and ingestion as they try to conceive.
(1) Fertil Steril. 2014 Feb 14. pii: S0015-0282(14)00067-3. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.01.022. [Epub ahead of print] Urinary bisphenol A, phthalates, and couple fecundity: the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study. Buck Louis GM1, Sundaram R2, Sweeney AM3, Schisterman EF2, Maisog J2, Kannan K4.
(2) A Survey of Phthalates and Parabens in Personal Care Products from the United States and Its Implications for Human Exposure Ying Guo and Kurunthachalam Kannan *
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (24), pp 14442–14449 DOI: 10.1021/es4042034
Publication Date (Web): November 21, 2013
(3) Environ Health Perspect. May 2004; 112(6): 751–753. PMCID: PMC1241971
Research Article Medications as a source of human exposure to phthalates.
Russ Hauser, Susan Duty, Linda Godfrey-Bailey, and Antonia M Calafat