Plastics Hit Men Where It Hurts
By Jim Clugger
Men, plastics are shrinking your manhood. It’s not a joke. Studies show that chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics contribute to the reduction in size of the male reproductive organ, or the penis.
In her recent book Count Down, Dr. Shanna Swan writes that reduced penile volume is one of many impacts plastic chemicals are imposing on the male reproductive system.
In the book, Swan points to her own research on the development of male offspring that are exposed to phthalates in the womb.
Swan states, “When we examined these boys after birth, we found that the anogenital distance was shorter and the penis was smaller than expected for a boy of his size whose mother had lower exposure to certain phthalates.”
Put simply, boys exposed to phthalates in the womb were born with smaller penises.
In 2003-2004 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) looked for evidence of phthalates in urine samples from 2,636 random Americans and found that “phthalate exposure is widespread in the U.S. population.” This means that if you are a man reading this, then you are likely affected.
And it’s not just penis size, Swan also links phthalates to reduced sperm count and less completely descended testicles.
The problem with phthalates is that they are used broadly, migrate easily, and disrupt normal hormone processes in the body.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that make plastic more durable. They can also be used to help make solutions with other materials. They are found in personal care products, cosmetics, food packaging, adhesives, children’s toys, and vinyl flooring.
Phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic and readily leach into their surroundings, particularly at elevated temperatures. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin, ingested with exposed food, or even inhaled along with microplastics.
Once inside the body, phthalates act like a synthetic estrogen and disrupt the normal hormones produced by the body, wreaking havoc on the reproductive system.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a chemicals industry organization that promotes the use of chemicals, disagrees with Swan’s findings.
The ACC references chemical industry insiders and others, attempting to dispute and discredit Swan.
They quote the National Toxicology Program (NTP), who describe the anogenital distance as a “novel index,” which is true. Swan is the first to apply the anogenital distance, previously used to study animals, to humans.
However, the novelty of the measurement application did not dissuade the NTP from concluding in a 2006 report that the effects of phthalates on male development were troubling.
“There is concern for adverse effects on development of the reproductive tract in male offspring of pregnant and breast-feeding women undergoing certain medical procedures that may result in exposure to high levels of DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate),” the report states “There is some concern for adverse effects of DEHP exposure on development of the reproductive tract in male offspring of pregnant women not medically exposed to DEHP.”
The ACC also claims, “Dr. Swan’s results have not been repeated by other researchers.”
In fact, Swan’s original results have been repeated by no less than three research groups.
“Our results suggest that prenatal exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate affects reproductive development in human males.” – lead researcher Yayoi Suzuki, Department of Environmental Studies, the University of Tokyo.
“Human exposure to phthalates is a public health concern, and the system most vulnerable to its potential effects seems to be the immature male reproductive tract.” – lead researcher Dr V. H. Borja-Aburto, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México.
“We find that (diisononyl phthalate) is associated with a shorter (anogenital distance) in boys at the age of 21 months, which is of concern because AGD has been related to male genital birth defects and impaired reproductive function in adult males.” – lead researcher Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, Department of Health Sciences, Karlstad University (Dr. Swan was also a member of this research group).
The ACC claims the Swan’s work is “quite controversial in the scientific community” and produces a critical review by Drs. Gerard McEwen and Gerald Renner as support. The ACC fails to mention that these individuals work for the cosmetics industry, and their businesses would be directly affected by negative health outcomes of phthalates.
Under author information, it states, “The authors are employed by advocacy groups that represent the interests of the cosmetic, toiletry, and fragrance industry.”
Apparently, Swan’s work is controversial to anyone profiting from the sale of phthalates.
Our recommendation, if you care about the reproductive health of your male children, is to stay clear of phthalates.
But don’t take our word for it. We have skin in the game too.
We here at Littorary are creating products free of the concerns around phthalates and other plastic chemicals. Our work is guided by independent researchers and an honest engagement with the facts unimpeded by financial wheedling that can bias industry advocates. We believe consumer purchases should be guided by these same principles.
Littorary is committed to making durable and sophisticated products that rival the convenience of plastics without the burden to human health. We believe technology and design innovations can revolutionize how Americans and the world consume products in concert with their personal health. Please stay tuned to our website, blog, and upcoming Kickstarter page as we unveil a product fully capable of providing the convenience and peace of mind that will consign the concept of disposable plastics to the garbage heap of history.