If you’ve had fertility on your mind – you may have heard of EDC’s (or Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals). But what the heck are they and what do you need to know about them?
WHAT ARE EDCs?
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are a group of chemicals that have a multitude of effects on our hormone production, metabolism, and action. They can bind to our hormone receptors mimicking some hormones while blocking the action of others.
HOW DO EDCs IMPACT FERTILITY?
With the vital role hormones play in reproductive function, we are seeing a growing amount of evidence showing the negative impact of these toxic chemicals on fertility. Other negative health effects include obesity and insulin resistance, hormone sensitive cancers, and cardiovascular disease.
Evidence is showing continually decreasing fertility rates, increased cases of endometriosis, PCOS, miscarriage, genital malformation, and decreased quality and quantity of sperm. The majority of these chemicals will accumulate in our bodies with repeated exposure and can be detected in a large percentage of the human population.
Multiple animal and human studies have consistently shown that exposure to EDCs has a negative effect on sperm quality including low sperm count, motility, morphology changes, sperm DNA damage, and epigenetic changes that will impact all future offspring. Some of these changes actually begin in pregnancy in developing male babies!
EDCs IN YOUR DAILY LIFE
The most important EDCs to avoid are those that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Many are found in personal care products, household items, toys, and most plastics. Although females tend to use a larger number of personal care products daily, there is a growing market for teenage boys and men, with the average male using up to six personal care products daily.
Plastics pose another route of exposure and are present in nearly all aspects of our life with the most concerning exposures via food and beverage containers and children’s products and toys.
Phthalates are present in many household products and some personal care products. They are typically added to plastics to make them more flexible. They are easily absorbed into the body and can be found in bodily fluids including blood, breast milk, urine and saliva. Low molecular weight phthalates are found in personal care products and are more likely to accumulate in the body.
Phthalates have been shown to negatively impact DNA, sperm concentration, maturity, motility, and morphology, with higher concentrations in urine associated with greater negative effects. Exposure to phthalates is multisource and can be difficult to avoid. They are present in vinyl products like shower curtains, personal care products such as shampoos and lotions, food containers, fragrance, pesticides, medications, medical devices, and many plastics baby toys (#3 plastics).
BPA is commonly found in plastics, epoxy resins and thermal paper receipts. The food industry relies on BPA to line cans and other food storage items. It is highly absorbable through ingestion and skin contact. Recent research on BPA’s effect on male reproductive function has shown higher urinary concentrations of BPA in young men aged 18-23 was associated with lower sperm counts. Higher maternal concentrations of BPA have been found to negatively impact sperm parameters in male offspring 20 years later.
HOW TO AVOID EDCs
- Opt for glass food storage containers and water bottles over plastic.
- Never heat food in plastic containers in the microwave. Use glass or ceramic instead.
- Use wax food coverings over plastic wrap.
- Do an inventory of your personal health products and read ingredients to ensure it’s free of phthalates, parabens and other chemical additives.
- Minimize consumption of foods from tin cans, plastic baby bottles, food storage containers, and other products.
- Try to generally minimize the use of plastics in your home.
EDCs such as phthalates and BPA have numerous deleterious effects on fertility and unfortunately are present in our daily lives often without us even realizing it.
Naturopathic doctors work carefully to educate patients about sources of exposure and support detoxification mechanisms to reduce accumulation in the body thereby having a positive impact on fertility and reproductive outcomes.
To learn more about how you can support your fertility, or to book an appointment with Dr. MacMullin, ND, contact us today.
Survey results. 2007-2017. EWG’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database. EWG Web site.