That Axe Body Spray you’re bathing in before a hot date is ruining your junk! A bunch of male scientists got together to look at some common ingredients in male shampoos, body sprays & colognes. What they found was shocking. In fact, after reading this post you may decide to chuck your Axe Body Spray in the trash where it belongs. We’ve covered in detail the effects of fragrance on the human body, which I’m dubbing the new “second-hand smoke.” But just recently, more has been discovered about how the chemicals, like phthalates, in fragrances could potentially affect men and their own fertility.
You heard me right. Axe Body Spray may make you feel manly, but in reality, it’s potentially robbing you of your manhood. And I wish I was joking. A new study out of Massachusetts has linked paternal exposure to phthalates with diminished embryo quality.
Translation: You are less likely to get someone pregnant one day. So if you’re trying to smell good for that special lady, you may want to rethink dousing yourself in toxic fragrances.
You mother will want grandchildren one day. Do her a favor and put the bottle down!
The more we know about phthalates, the scarier they get.
What are Phthalates?
Phthalates, sometimes called plasticizers, are a class of chemicals that are used to make plastics more flexible and durable. Some types of phthalates are used as solvents (dissolving agents) for other materials. Phthalates are used in hundreds of products, including:
- Vinyl flooring
- Lubricating oils
- Automotive plastics
- Hair sprays & hair dye
- Shampoo & conditioners
- Perfume and Body sprays (such as Axe body spray!)
What are the effects of Phthalates?
There isn’t enough testing yet to know all of the effects that phthalates have on humans or the environment, but the CDC has been publishing reports since 1995 with their findings on the subject. So far, in the past few years, research has linked high phthalate levels to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, lowered IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, and most recently, male fertility issues.
The most recent study, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, investigates whether phthalate levels in preconception can directly affect the reproductive success and embryo quality of the subjects.
The study, led by environmental health scientist Richard Pilsner, measured the associations between phthalates and embryo quality at day five of the IVF cycle, when genome activation starts. This timing is extremely important because previous studies have measured the effects of paternal phthalate exposure at day three of the cycle, before the embryo begins genome activation, and have found no associations with embryo quality.
Pilsner’s study focused on 50 heterosexual couples undergoing IVF in Western Massachusetts. What they found, was that the Male, not female, urinary concentrations of select metabolites of phthalates and phthalate alternatives are associated with diminished blastocyst quality. Women are often “blamed” for birth defects and infant loss, but sperm quality and paternal chemical levels may have more to do with it than we think!
How can we avoid Phthalates?
Unfortunately there is no regulation on phthalates in products, and no requirement for disclosing them on packaging. It’s impossible to know the amount of phthalates we are being exposed to without special testing. Until more regulations are passed surrounding the use phthalates in consumer products, we will continue to be exposed to them on a daily basis. According to Bruce Akers, a “green” chemist who works with natural and organic brands to create cleaner product formulations, when these chemicals are used to create tubing for manufacturing or packaging for products, eliminating them becomes tough. “If you want soft, squeezable plastic,” he says, “you’re using phthalates.”
Phthalates are founds in a wide variety of products, from building materials, to parts of your vehicle, plastic clothing such as rain coats, a majority of food and drink items – yes, even organic food and drinks, and personal-care products such as makeup, hairspray, and body spray. There is no way to create a definitive list of products, containing phthalates, but avoiding products made with or packaged in soft plastics and unknown ingredients such as “fragrance” are good ways to lessen exposure.
What the heck can we do about this?!
The good news is, the CDC has recommended further testing on phthalates so we can get more information on their effects on humans and the environment in the future.
An IndieGogo campaign for an at-home toxin testing kit can test your levels of the 10 most common household toxins. (Okay fine not phthalates, but a ton of other things you should avoid) Not only can this information help you make informed decisions about the products you use in your home, but the results will also help Silent Spring Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, generate new scientific knowledge about everyday chemical exposures and support stronger policies that protect people from dangerous chemicals in consumer products.
The most recent test in Massachusetts also opens the door for additional testing on the subject. In fact, State and federal regulations have already eliminated several select phthalates from some products, and it is likely that the list will continue to grow. In California, Proposition 65 now includes four phthalates (DINP, DEHP, BBP, and DBP) under its labeling requirements.
Big retailers may also play a significant role in the regulation of phthalates, as they have with other toxic chemicals like BPA. Both Target and Walmart have launched initiatives to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals from their shelves last year, and you can help by reminding them to keep their promise by clicking and visiting their Facebook pages and leaving a message for Target and Walmart.
Robin Whyatt, professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Medical Center, suggests that companies could use flexible polymers instead. “There are flexible polymers that don’t require a plasticizer – they exist,” she remarked. “They haven’t been studied really, so we need to know more, but they probably do not leech the way phthalates do. The problem with phthalates as plasticizers is that they’re free floating, they don’t attach to the polymer, so they leech easily. If you have a flexible polymer that shouldn’t happen.”
What else can you do? Demand more testing, demand more regulations, and continue to educate yourself about the chemicals and toxins that we encounter every day and how we can avoid them. Reach out to the big ten retailers and tell them you want to see less toxic chemicals in the stores you shop at. Phthalates are seemingly everywhere, because they are cheap and widely available, but with more demand for research and healthier alternatives we can lessen the exposure for everyone.
But Seriously How Can I Avoid Phthalates?
- Avoid and/or reduce your use of products with added fragrance.
- If you dye your hair, make sure to avoid coal tar and lead acetate.
- Avoid sunscreens with octinoxate, oxybenzone and homosalate.
- Read labels closely and find safer alternatives using tools like the Think Dirty app and GuideGuide.