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Everyday chemicals could be zapping your testosterone

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Phthalates linked to low T

Plasticizers known as phthalates have been found to be associated with lower levels of testosterone that is important for overall health and well-being. According to University of Michigan researchers the finding has public health implications that should be noted by policy makers.


More research shows everyday chemicals could lower testosterone. Phthalates in the environment from plastics and personal care products could be a contributor to declining levels of testosterone that has been found among men from past studies according to University of Michigan scientists.

Plastics in the environment affect female hormones too

According to the findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, women as well as men, aged 40 to 60 were found to have decreased levels of circulating testosterone that correlated with exposure to phthalates.

The chemical that is in shampoos, in your kitchen cabinet, wrapped around your food, in some grocery receipts and more was also linked to lower testosterone in boys as 6 to 12.

Past studies have shown plasticizers could be responsible for genital malformations because they disrupt the endocrine system. Experts have been urging the government to take action to reduce public exposure to phthalates but the question remains is enough being done?

Where oh where did my sex life go?

Testosterone sales have skyrocketed and websites promoting that men take supplements for 'low T' are flourishing. Studies have also shown male hormone levels have consistently declined in the past 50 years.

"This may have important public health implications, since low testosterone levels in young boys can negatively impact reproductive development, and in middle age can impair sexual function, libido, energy, cognitive function, and bone health in men and women," said John D. Meeker, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in a press release.

Men and women both require testosterone to maintain overall health. The hormone also plays a role in vitamin D synthesis.

Testosterone is important for maintaining an erection and for semen quality and should not normally decline with age. Supplements are not recommended except for specific diagnosis of hypogonadism, yet are widely prescribed.

The new study might suggest a cascade of events that could lead to poor health from environmental chemicals that we are all exposed to on a daily basis.

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Some products that contain phthalates include:

  • Nail polish
  • Shampoo
  • Detergents
  • Vinyl adhesives
  • Raincoats
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Soaps
  • Shampoos
  • Hair sprays
  • Lubricating oils
  • Candles
  • Garden hoses and gloves

Some medications that you're taking might also contain phthalates

The study

The University of Michigan researchers looked at the relationship between phthalates and testosterone levels among 2,208 participants from the U.S. National health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2011 to 2012. They identified 13 different chemical substances in the participants' urine.

Blood samples matched with urinalysis was associated with a 24 to 34.1 percent drop in testosterone levels.

Meeker said the study isn't conclusive, but does suggest that phthalates could be contributing to testosterone related disorders.

Some health issues that can occur from low testosterone include:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Poor muscle development
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Type 2 diabetes

For tips on how to limit your exposure to the chemical, visit the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

Limiting exposure to phthalates and other chemicals in the environment that are found in everyday household products could make a difference in your testosterone levels.

Source: Meeker JD and Ferguson KK. Urinary Phthalate Metabolites are Associated with Decreased Serum Testosterone in Men, Women and Children from NHANES 2011-2012. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). 2014.


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