Plastics and Testosterone: Xenoestrogens, Phthlates, & Co.
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Plastic. The savior of the modern day human, and the solution to all of our daily problems.
What could we do without it, now that we have gone and invented it already?
The answer is, that we couldn’t do much. I once tried living a day without touching anything that’s made from plastic, and I lasted 2 hours. A challenge that sounded extremely easy to accomplish, but once you try, seems impossible.
I mean just think about it. You wake up, maybe you brush your teeth? Well there you go, the toothpaste comes out of a plastic tube, and the brush is made out of plastic. What’s next? Maybe you have some bacon and eggs for breakfast and then you realize that the bacon is wrapped in plastic. And what we’re you going to cook the bacon and eggs with? Let me guess, a pan, and some plastic cooking utensils…
…Maybe you want to hit the gym after breakfast, which means that you’re going to need some water, and where does that water go into? That’s right, straight into a plastic bottle. Oh, and after the gym, what about the recovery drink? Maybe mix some whey powder and milk together in a plastic shaker bottle.
To put it mildly, we are surrounded by plastics.
Some might argue that it’s a good thing, and surely, plastics are extremely useful in multiple daily tasks, but they also have a flip side.
They’re endocrine disruptors, negatively affecting thyroid and testosterone levels.
Let’s take a closer look:
Why Plastics Lower Testosterone Levels
I know what many of you guys are now wondering the exact same thing as I was years ago.
How could plastics do anything for the human body? And what makes plastics so bad?
I mean the whole idea of plastics being harmful sounds like some tinfoil-ufo-controversy-BS at first. But once you understand the idea behind the harmful effects, you also understand what makes plastics unhealthy.
- A first problem is a chemical group called phthalates. They’re used to make plastics soft and flexible, and as you might guess, they’re found in nearly all kinds of flexible plastics ranging from soda bottles to plastic bags. Phthalates are linked to delayed puberty, low testosterone, and feminine characteristics in various human and animal studies.
- The second problem is a chemical called Bisphenol A or BPA. It’s also linked to low testosterone, increased estrogen, delayed puberty, and feminine characteristics in various human and animal studies (also explained in more detail below).
- The third problem is that a huge list of chemicals used in the manufacturing process of plastic products are labeled as xenoestrogens, meaning that they mimic the effects of exogenous estrogen (female hormone) in the body. This includes the phthalates and BPA that I mentioned above, and also: PCBs, Bisphenol S (BPS), dioxin, vinyl chloride, styrene, phenolic, epoxy resin, PMMA, PTFE, and many many others…
In short, the load of xenoestrogens and endocrine system toxins that gets into your body through the usage of plastic products, is easily enough to cause damage in your endocrine system and testosterone production.
Here’s some science about the matter:
a) This Swedish study had 196 boys as subjects. The researchers measured phthalate levels from their mothers when they were still pregnant, and once the kids were 21 months old, their “anogenital distance” – which is a pretty solid physical measurement of testosterone – was measured, to see if the phthalates had an effect on the hormonal health of these 196 subject boys. The results were clear, the more phthalates the mother had in her system during pregnancy, the shorter the anogenital distance in the baby (the shorter the distance the lower the testosterone).
b) This study compared the men who worked at a chemical plant which manufactures BPA, to men who worked at a tap water factory. The results show that the men who worked in contact with BPA had significantly lower serum testosterone levels, and especially free testosterone levels when compared to the tap water factory fellows.
c) This human study found out that Bisphenol A causes sexual dysfunction in men. Several animal studies have also found that BPA is estrogenic, lowers testosterone, and causes sexual dysfunction (study, study, study, study, study).
d) This study saw that Bisphenol A inhibited the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, thus blocked dihydrotestosterone (DHT) production. The same study also found that BPA increased the activity of aromatase enzyme, which converts testosterone into estrogen.
e) This study found out that the phthalates used in the manufacturing process of flexible plastics can be considered xenoestrogens, due to the fact that they bind into estrogen receptors and induce feminizing effects in the body.
f) In this study, the researches analyzed 18 different samples of bottled water. Eleven of the samples showed a significant estrogenic response.
g) This rat study found out that a mixture containing 5 different phthalate esters, strongly inhibits testicular testosterone production.
h) The researchers in this study concluded that phthalates can be straight on labeled as anti-androgens and that they contribute to testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS)
i) In this study, the researched tested 445 common plastic products to see if there was any estrogenic activity in them. 70% of the products induced significant estrogenic activity, and the number jumped to 95% when the products were altered to “real life” conditions, such as the microwave heat and putting them to a dishwasher. Also note that many of the products in this study were labeled as BPA-free, yet they still induced estrogenic effects similar to BPA plastics.
There’s hundreds of similar studies on the internet, and if you’re interested in seeing more of them, Google is your friend.
How come these chemicals can be found inside the human body? I don’t eat plastics!
Answer: We get most of the chemicals mentioned above through foods and drinks. For example: most of the meat products, fish, processed foods, and certain oils, and spreads are all packed in plastic wraps/packs. Bottled water is also loaded with phthlates (this study found that out of the 18 analysed samples, 11 induced significant estrogenic response), and fast foods are filled with phthlates.
Microwaving plastic is also one extremely efficient and quick way to load up your body with phthlates and BPA, as is drinking soda (just think about all that acidic drink sitting in those freshly produced soft plastic bottles for months).
Is there any proof that humans are altered to these chemicals, or is it just a theory?
Answer: It’s not a theory, just take a look at the studies presented above. Also take a look at these studies with similar conclusions (study, study, study, study). It’s a simple fact. The chemicals leech from various products straight into our bodies, and the levels in most people are high enough to have physical effects.
Is there a way to avoid this exposure then?
Answer: Yes of course. Just avoid plastic products as much as possible (you can’t avoid them completely though). Don’t drink bottled water, soda, etc. If there’s a relatively useful alternative to plastic products, made from wood, metal, or ceramic, etc. use it instead.
Let me give you some quick examples:
- Use wooden cooking utensils.
- Geta metal drinking bottle.
- Use metallic food containers.
There you go, a few reasons to avoid plastic products, or at least use some hormonally healthier alternatives, such as wood, metal, glass, or ceramic.
Take the pointers from this post and educate yourself with the studies, it’s an easy step to a healthier life and improved hormonal balance, and it’s pretty much free, or at least very cheap.