Two new studies have found links between BPA and phthalates and fertility problems, suggesting that the chemicals cause increases in miscarriages as well as infertility issues in both men and women.
The studies, published this week in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, claim to have identified "specific effects of bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates on human reproduction."
Among the findings:
- In one study of couples trying to become pregnant, researchers found that phthalate concentrations found in the male partners were associated with a 20% decline in fecundity and a longer time for couples to conceive.
- In another study, researchers found that women with the highest levels of BPA had an 80% higher chance of having a miscarriage.
Dr. Linda Giudice, president of the ASRM observed, “These studies extend our observations to the general population and show that these chemicals are a cause for concern to all of us.”
BPA is found in canned goods, plastic bottles, tableware and food storage containers, among other items. BPA is considered a "hormone-disrupting chemical" due to links to health risks such as heart and kidney disease in children, reproductive problems, neurodevelopmental delays, diabetes and obesity.
To limit your exposure to BPA, the FDA advises:
- Avoid plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 (some, but not all, may contain BPA).
- Do not put very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers made with BPA. BPA levels rise in food when containers/products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food.
- Discard all bottles with scratches, as these may harbor bacteria and, if BPA-containing, lead to greater release of BPA.
In addition, look for food products that are packaged in BPA-free cans or in aseptic "brick" cartons. When purchasing acidic foods like tomatoes, work especially hard to avoid BPA by using fresh tomatoes, tomato products packaged in glass or cartons, or choosing BPA-free brands such as Eden Organics.
Phthalates are also known to be hormone-disrupting chemicals. They are generally used to make products more flexible and used as fixatives and solvents. They are commonly found in nail polish, body lotion, deodorant, shampoo, food containers, medical devices, vinyl flooring, building materials, adhesives and even some children's toys.
It can be difficult to avoid phthalates, but to reduce your exposure to phthalates, the NIH recommends:
- Use only food containers that are marked microwave-safe.
- Choose plastic containers with the recycle codes 1, 2, 4, or 5.
- Buy only toys and toothbrushes that say “phthalate-free.”
- Avoid chewing or sucking on soft plastic or vinyl products.
- Always check labels on personal care products.
- Ask medical personnel to use phthalate-free tubing and other medical products.
The Environmental Working Group also suggests avoiding products that include “fragrance” as an ingredient, as these may contain phthalates.
In general, it is helpful to aim for fresh foods, limited chemical products, home items made from natural materials and basic commonsense. Keep in mind that houseplants can also be helpful in removing these toxins from the air (here are the ten best, along with the chemicals they are best at removing).
These are all healthy practices to use in general, even without these new studies and their implications.
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