We are all aware of the nasties in our food and environment that can have an impact on fertility. HEALTH speaks with Dr. Pankaj Shrivastav, a pioneer in the field of Reproductive Medicine, to learn more about the potential harm that these seemingly innocuous products can have on our fertility.
Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals
It is no secret that cosmetics and beauty products are full of chemicals. Studies show that products such as nail polish, perfumes, antibacterial soaps, antiaging creams, and more, have high chemical content that contains endocrine disruptor chemicals, tells Dr. Shrivastav. “One such group of chemicals that are phthalates, a group of nonpersistent chemicals that are used in a variety of consumer products across the globe,” he explains. “The high molecular weight Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP is used to add flexibility to polyvinyl chloride and other plastics products. Low molecular weight phthalates such as Di-butyl phthalate (DBP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP) are used as solvents in personal care products to hold color and scent.” Women of reproductive age have a specific exposure risk profile to DBP which is commonly used in nail polishes.
Globally, more than 18 billion pounds of phthalates are used each year, primarily as plasticizers to create flexibility in plastics. According to Dr. Shrivastav, these chemicals can be found in cosmetic products such as lotions, perfumes, and nail polishes. He elaborates, “Select phthalate metabolites have been associated with decreased sperm concentration and motility, and increased sperm DNA damage. Interestingly, phthalates have also demonstrated to reduce fertility with decreased pregnancy rates, increased miscarriages, and other gestational complications.” Moreover, it has been demonstrated that these plasticizers negatively modulate oocyte growth, ovulation, and embryonic development, leading to impaired ovarian function. Interference with ovarian steroid synthesis and metabolism could partially explain these effects.
Awareness Is Key
So what do we do? How do we even begin to protect ourselves and our future generations from items that have become an intrinsic part of daily use and selfcare? “The first step is always awareness,” says Dr. Shrivastav. “This is why scientific research and development is so vital and it is imperative that we as medical physicians take this kind of knowledge to the public and make them aware of potential environmental dangers.” He advises that when it comes to plastic, avoid their use as much as possible. When it comes to cosmetics, flip the label and read the ingredients. When you see phthalate listed as an ingredient – don’t buy it. There are many certified organic products and companies available; however, it is imperative to do your research before you make your purchase.
To avoid the toxic dangers of many leading cosmetic brands, opt for organic cosmetics. For more information about specific products and the chemicals they contain, visit the Environmental Working Group’s searchable cosmetics database. www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. Another similarly useful website is: www.safecosmetics.org. Here is a list of companies who have pledged not to use chemicals that are known for, or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutations, or birth defects.