Environmental research shows that certain compounds in the water are causing reproductive problems in aquatic animals, such as fish and frogs. There is increasing evidence that these compounds are also affecting fertility in humans. What are these compounds and what do they do?
An Environmental Working Group (EWG) survey of waste water in the San Francisco area identified three so-called hormone-disrupting compounds: Bisphenol A (BPA), triclosan, and phthalates
Hormone-disrupting compounds are substances that mimic naturally-occurring hormones. They are found in almost all of the household products we use, from shampoo to liquid detergent to cosmetics.
Let us take a look at the 3 most widespread compounds that the EWG has identified.
BPA is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics. We have dealt with the BPA in detail in previous posts which you can find here.
Phthalates, also called plasticizers in the manufacturing of polyvinylchloride (PVC) products. Eight phthalates (dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di-n-pentyl phthalate (DnPP), di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), and diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP)) have been listed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the Phthalates Action Plan. The EPA is “concerned about phthalates because of their toxicity and the evidence of pervasive human and environmental exposure to these chemicals.” The EPA is expected to initiate more rigid phthalates regulation this year. Safer and less toxic alternatives to phthalates are being explored
Triclosan is a bacteriostatic agent found in most soaps, detergents, and antiseptics. It is also sued as an antimicrobial pesticide. Many uses of triclosan are registered at the US FDA. Unlike phthalates, triclosan is not yet on the blacklisted chemicals but health experts are also getting concerned about its presence in natural waters and accumulating human exposure. According to the EPA, triclosan was found in approximately 36 U.S. streams where effluent from activated sludge waste water treatment plants, trickle-down filtration, and sewage overflow appear to contribute to the occurrence of triclosan in open water.
What do hormone-disrupting chemicals do?
Hormone-disrupting chemicals (HDCs) mimic the action of hormones, especially reproductive hormones, thus can creative havoc with the reproductive system. Media reports have dubbed them as “gender bending chemicals.”
According to reports, there is evidence that HDCs have been linked to the following in humans:
- Reduced sperm concentration and motility in male adults,
- Decreased sperm quality and possible DNA damage in the gametes
- Abnormal breast development in very young girls and even boys
- High risk for miscarriage
- Polycystic ovarian disorder
So how do we minimize exposure to HDC? The EWG gives us the following tips:
- Use nail polish and other beauty products that do not contain “dibutyl phthalate” (DBP) – check the ingredient list.
- Use personal care products, detergents, cleansers, and other products that do not contain “fragrance” in the ingredient list – “fragrance” commonly includes the phthalate DEP.
- Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic.
- Use a non-vinyl shower curtain.
- Use paints and other hobby products in well-ventilated areas.
- Give children wooden and other phthalate-free toys, and don’t let children chew on soft plastic toys.
- Health care workers and patients can urge their medical facilities to reduce or eliminate use of products containing phthalates.
- Avoid products made of flexible PVC or vinyl plastic. A few examples of these products include PVC lawn furniture, vinyl raincoats, flexible PVC building materials, vinyl shower curtains, and toys for kids or pets made of PVC.