The hidden endocrine disruptors found in plastics
2011 was a momentous year for global awareness in terms of the harmful effects of plastic on human health. Following a number of reports from national health and safety agencies, the European Commission outright banned the use of BPA in the manufacture of bottles intended for baby feeding. The evidence for the harmfulness of this substance, particularly in infants, became simply indisputable. Not one year passed and the U.S. also took major steps towards the elimination of BPA. We’ve been using plastic materials for selling and storing our food for quite some time now, which makes the legal action all the more worrisome. It begs the question: just how did we get to a place where we have to ban manufacturers from using toxic substances in their products?
Bisphenol A (or BPA, for short) is a compound widely used in the production of resins and plastic materials. It’s been around ever since the 1950s and, granted, it is a blessing for construction. In terms of chemical importance, BPA is vital to obtaining hard, yet flexible polycarbonate plastic products. In terms of human consumption, however, its effects range from slightly detrimental to outright poisonous, especially in young children and elderly individuals. BPA’s impact on human hormones can yield anything from diabetes, developmental issues, heart disease, genital abnormalities, obesity and, unsurprisingly, infertility.
What to stay away from: BPA, phthalates, BPS
Alongside other substances, like phthalates (DEHP and DBP, most commonly) and BPS, plastic stimulates estrogenic activity, as it behaves akin to estrogens within the human body. Both BPS and BPA mimic estradiol, which is the primary female sex hormone. Regardless of your sex, this compound will affect your hormonal balance. Nonetheless, men seem to be the category that stands out as the most affected, researchers having recently observed a noticeable decline in terms of overall male fertility and testosterone levels.
Why would anybody do this? Long story short, marketing and selling food items is easier said than done. Beverages and snacks require a cheap lining that boasts a host of features – from being sturdy to preventing the food itself from decomposing the container, successfully defending it against bacteria and germs, all while not changing the taste in any way. This is a tall order, to say the least.
The good news is that a resounding amount of manufacturers kicked BPA out the back door, rather than potentially associating themselves with such major health risks. Furthermore, If you are worried about how these chemicals may have affected your testosterone level, you should read this actionable guide: 19 breakthrough ways proven to increase testosterone.
3 Ways Plastics Lower Testosterone
- BPS – Bisphenol S
Rather than a branched three-carbon group connecting two phenols, BPS makes use of a sulphone cluster (SO2). Like this, the compound is actually more stable, boasting a higher resistance to heat, as well as sunlight. In terms of lowering testosterone, studies found that BPS is close to no different than BPA. What’s more, there’s no regulation against it, so you may not even see it on labels from companies boasting “BPA-free products.” Luckily, its strength also prevents it from breaking down as easy as its infamous sibling, which is why it is generally considered safer.
- Phthalates (DEHP, DBP)
Phthalates are another puzzling threat within plastics. In young boys, DEHP metabolites can lower serum testosterone by over a third of its normal value. Phthalates are even more widespread than BPA and BPS, because they are widely employed in personal care products. Particularly for boys and men, such dangerously low levels of testosterone are associated with a wide array of issues, from behavioural abnormalities in terms of mood swings to issues in development (including the development of muscular mass), low levels of energy and even impaired sexual and cognitive functions, cardiovascular system and skeletal density.
- BPA – Bisphenol A
The case against BPA is already made. Furthermore, to avoid any confusion, the correlation between BPA and the above mentioned symptoms was proven through clinical examinations of patients suffering from related illnesses while also having significant levels of BPA in their body. Its effect is so devastating in developing children that it was banned in the EU and in over 15 states in the U.S.
Tips for Avoiding Plastic Contaminants
Plastic is everywhere, so trying to avoid it might seem like an insurmountable task. Don’t panic though, because everything you have to do is divide and conquer. Start with the products you are likely to consume or come in contact on a daily basis:
- Switch to produce that you can package or that is packaged in paper. Box packaging is just as good, but not with frozen food.
- Employ a reusable, eco-friendly bag for your shopping.
- Glass bottles are safer for your water and when you order coffee, either bring your own ceramic cup or ask for one. You can re-use a glass bottle for everyday drinking as well.
- You don’t need a plastic straw to drink.
- Buy in bulk or fresh, unpackaged food. Use your own paper bags, nobody will mind.
- Use eco-friendly personal care and cleaning products that are free of plastic compounds. Find a brand you like and keep using them.
- Use glass containers for your food storage.
- Always make sure anything that comes in contact with your children (bottles, pacifiers, toys, etc.) is plastic toxin free.
Small changes like the ones above can go a long way for the health and hormonal balance of your body. Sometimes, all it takes is the will to implement changes, such as switching from a plastic cutting board to a wooden one, in order to keep your testosterone within normal limits and your body from potential life-threatening syndromes.
- Plastic substances as endocrine disruptors: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0055387
- Phthalates and low testosterone: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/99/11/4346/2836774/Urinary-Phthalate-Metabolites-Are-Associated-With
- BPA and BPS are just as harmful: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26194879
- BPA and BPS behave like oestrogens: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22507746?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg
- European Food Safety Authority BPA milestones: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/bisphenol
- BPA in the U.S.: https://www.saferstates.com/toxic-chemicals/bisphenol-a/