Endocrine disrupting chemicals can be a big problem for men's health

Do Personal Care Products for Men Impact Reproductive Health?

Life

Personal care products for men are abundant today. Shaving creams, aftershaves, hair sprays, hair gels…the list goes on and on. And it's likely to keep growing . The men's personal care market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 6.0% from 2020 to 2027, and the decision to buy is not just influenced by looks. In fact, 81% of men globally believe that grooming purchase decisions are influenced by three things: health, hygiene, and looks (1).

But have you ever looked at the ingredients included in your go-to products? A large percentage of the men's personal care stuff out there today can contain harmful chemicals like phthalates.

So what the heck are phthalates and what dangers do they pose to our health? And how do we find non-toxic men's personal care products with clean ingredients? Read on and find out!

What are phthalates and what are they used for?

Phthalates (phthalic acid diesters) are a class of manmade chemicals that are used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products (2-4). They are found in personal care products, medications, paints, adhesives, and medical equipment made with polyvinyl chloride plastics (4).

Their function depends on the type of product and specific phthalate, but their role is typically as a plasticizer, solvent, and/or stabilizer. In nail polishes, phthalates are used to reduce cracking. In hair sprays and hair gels, phthalates are added to help avoid stiffness, allowing the spray to form a more flexible film on the hair. And in fragrances like in cologne or lotions, phthalates are included as a solvent.

A study of 72 personal care products obtained at a supermarket in the United States detected phthalates in more than 70% of hair gel/hair sprays, body lotions, fragrances, and deodorants (4).

How do they find their way into our systems?

Human exposure to phthalates occurs throughout most of our lifespan, due to the products that utilize them (3). Although the science is still being understood, it is thought that they can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed in the skin (4).

During childhood and adulthood, a major source of exposure is through the use of personal care products: hair sprays, hair gels, colognes, lotions, or deodorants, for example. Research has even shown that unborn children can be exposed in utero through maternal exposure (e.g., the mother inhales perfume or cologne that uses phthalates while pregnant) (3).

A 2005 questionnaire administered to 406 men ascertained their use of personal care products, including cologne, aftershave, lotions, hair products, and deodorants (4). They then studied the amount of phthalates present in the same group's urine samples. Men who used cologne or aftershave with the 48-hour period before the sample was collected had higher levels of phthalate in their urine. Further, they found that men who used multiple of these products had higher levels than men who used one.

What are the health effects of phthalate exposure?

Phthalates have been studied in animals extensively, but the human health effects are still being researched. But the potential effects on human health are starting to come to light.

Due to the way the phthalates are digested, continuous exposure to phthalates in humans may result in liver dysfunction (5). Some studies have shown a positive association between phthalate exposure and the development of hypertension and atherosclerosis in adults as well as some cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adolescents (6). In a Denmark study, high-level dibutyl phthalate exposure (≥ 10,000 cumulative mg, compared to no exposure) was associated with an approximately two-fold increase in the rate of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer (7). In addition, an association between phthalate exposure and allergic diseases has been suggested, although the literature is still far from conclusive (8).

The potential male reproductive effects of phthalate exposure are still being studied. However, there was a recent literature review of male reproductive effects associated with exposure to six phthalate types at typical exposure levels to humans (3). This review found that phthalates affect semen quality, testosterone levels, and time to pregnancy (3).

Ways to reduce your exposure

Given these health effects, it's a good idea to reduce exposure when you can. While reducing exposure may seem like a daunting task, thankfully there are some great non-toxic men's personal care products out there. So relax! We'll help you find some simple ways you can do it.

The easiest is to swap out phthalate-heavy products for safer versions. You can start with finding products that are fragrance-free, as fragrances tend to utilize phthalates. You can also swap your current personal care products for cleaner versions - and we'd recommend doing this with one product at a time so it's not overwhelming. A great place to start is our lists of non-toxic men's hair styling products and men's shaving creams.

Finally, it can be incredibly helpful to find retailers who limit the toxic chemicals in their personal care products. Target and Sephora both have a "clean seal" to help you search for safer products. And retailers like Credo Beauty, Detox Market, Whole Foods, and Follian have a wide variety of clean, screened products as well.

So get out there and start swapping out the non-safe for the safe!


References

1. https://www.grandviewresearch.com. Men's Personal Care Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Skincare, Personal Grooming), By Distribution Channel (Hypermarket & Supermarket, Pharmacy & Drug Store, E-commerce), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2020 - 2027.

2. FDA. Phthalates. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/phthalates. Accessed February 6, 2021.

3. Radke EG, et al. Environment International. 2018 Dec;121(Pt 1):764-793.

4. Duty SM, et al. Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Nov;113(11):1530-5.

5. Praveena et al. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 Apr;25(12):11333-11342.

6. Mariana and Cairrao. J Cardiovasc Dev Dis. 2020 Jul 22;7(3):26.

7. Ahern et al. J Clin Oncol. 2019 Jul 20;37(21):1800-1809.

8. Bølling et al. Environ Int. 2020 Jun;139:105706.

Real talk— polyvinyl chloride (or PVC for short), seems to be in practically everything, doesn't it? If you walk down a random aisle in a store, you can find this material in upholstery, shower curtains, toys and even school supplies. You might be thinking, if it's in so many things (including items for children), it should be safe right? In reality, the answer is no. BUT, don't fret, since there are simple, yet effective ways to avoid PVC in your everyday life.

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When it comes to fragrance, we always say that the safest option is to look for products that are completely fragrance free. Choosing to go fragrance-free is a great way to avoid chemicals that may be harmful to your health. Plus, does everything we own really need to smell like cotton candy?! In case you haven't heard why fragrance is so problematic, we break it down below.

What's Actually in Fragrance?

One of the big problems with fragrance is that there are so many different chemicals that can be added to a product. According to the International Fragrance Association's Transparency List, there are approximately 3,000 fragrance ingredients that can be used in consumer goods worldwide (1). And since the FDA does not require approval before a chemical goes onto the market, it's impossible to say that all of these fragrance ingredients are safe to use. The chemical that's making your house smell like clean laundry or a cinnamon apple might also secretly be toxic.

Even though there are a lot of untested chemicals, we do know that some fragrance ingredients are definitely harmful to human health. Many fragrance ingredients can be allergens that cause headaches, runny noses, sneezing, or coughing (2). Allergens are probably the reason you have to stand two feet away from that one coworker who wears a super strong perfume.

Phthalates are widely used in as a solvent or fixative in perfume, shampoo, lotion, and nail polish even though they're endocrine disrupting chemicals. Fragrance found in candles has been shown to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which can cause short-term health effects like irritation, and long-term health effects like cancer (3, 4).

To make matters worse, companies don't even have to tell you all the ingredients they use in their fragrance! Trade secret laws keep companies from disclosing proprietary fragrance blends, but that means we don't actually know what's in our products. There could be 10 ingredients that go into the "fragrance" listed on your body lotion, or there could be 500! And if we don't know what all of these ingredients are, how do we adequately protect our health?

When in Doubt, Go With Fragrance Free

Like we mentioned before, the best bet is to purchase products that are free from all fragrance. Only look for labels that say "contains no added fragrance"... some products labeled as "unscented" may still contain fragrance as a way to hide ingredients that naturally have an unpleasant smell (2). If you really can't live without a fragranced product, go for something that only uses essential oils (although they have their own pros and cons as well).


References
  1. https://ifrafragrance.org/initiatives/transparency/ifra-transparency-list
  2. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389414010243
  4. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons-pahs
Roundups

9 Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Backpacks

Just in time for back to school

As soon as August rolls around, all we can think of back-to-school shopping. It seems like the list of new supplies to buy gets longer every year, but a new backpack might be the most exciting thing on the list if the one from last year is torn to shreds or not big enough anymore. Most kids backpacks are made from synthetic materials or even harmful plastics like PVC, which contains phthalates. This is why we searched for backpacks that are not only cute and functional, but good for the environment. Our backpack recommendations are all phthalate free, lead free, and some are even made from recycled water bottles! Talk about a triple threat. There are lots of colors and styles so that your kid can express themselves. Plus, most of the brands listed below have different sizing options so everyone from elementary to high school will be covered.


9 Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Backpacks

a) Apple Park b) Fjallraven Re-Kanken c) Fluf d) Garnet Hill Eco Backpack e) Milkdot f) Parkland Design & Manufacturing g) Petit Collage h) So Young i) Terra Thread


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Sometimes after a long day at work, the last thing anyone feels like doing is cooking dinner. Eating out or ordering take out is just so easy, especially with modern technology! But before you open that food delivery app, you might want to keep reading. Some recent studies have shown a link between eating out and phthalate exposure.

What Are Phthalates Again?

Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which means they mess with your hormones. These sneaky chemicals can change the way hormones messaging and how the body reacts to them. Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked to serious health effects like cancer, developmental abnormalities and fertility issues. And you don't have to be exposed to a ton of phthalates to have negative impacts. In fact, studies show that low level exposure can impact your health (1).

How They Get into Food

Phthalates are used to make plastic flexible and durable. There are a ton of different steps in food processing and distribution that relies on plastic to get the job done. Food handling gloves, plastic packaging material, plastic parts in machinery, and flexible plastic tubing are all used when creating processed food. Phthalates can easily leach from plastic into food during any of these steps. The more processed a food product is, the higher the chance that its come into contact with phthalates.

Why does this matter? Well, two major studies recently looked at phthalate exposure associated with eating out and found concerning results. Both studies found a higher rate of exposure to two phthalates called DINP (Diisononyl phthalate), and DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) in people who had recently dined out. The first study found that people who dined out had phthalate levels that were approximately 35% higher than those who ate at home (2). Adolescents were especially susceptible to high phthalate levels because they were the most likely age group to eat out.

The second study had similar findings, as well as observing fatty fast food items like burgers or french fries could elevate phthalate levels even more (3). Both studies found that eating food that had been cooked at home significantly reduced phthalate exposure.

What to do Instead

The good news is that the body metabolizes phthalates very quickly and they'll leave your body within 24 hours. So the cheeseburger you had after that big night out over the weekend probably isn't still impacting your phthalate levels. And there's currently a petition going to stop fast food workers from using vinyl gloves, which could contain phthalates. If you find yourself ordering food more than you're cooking it, now might be a good time to swing by the grocery story. But if you just can't break that delivery habit, try ordering foods that are less fatty, and less processed like salads.

Weekly meal prep is a super easy way to regularly start cooking. Preparing weekly dinner on Sunday means you'll always have something ready when you come home from work! Shopping for groceries on Sunday is also an easy way to make sure there are ingredients already on hand when you make dinner during the week. We have some easy recipes on our site! Check out veggie grilling recipes and recipe ideas using beans.


References:

  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.6b00034
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412017314666
  3. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1510803

Food

Why Food-Prep Gloves at Restaurants Might Make Eating Out Extra Unhealthy

What you can do about the plastic gloves used to handle and serve food that are contaminating your restaurant meal

Despite all of the healthy eating Instagrammers we follow, we all eat out sometimes. Because life, job, kids…exhaustion. Sometimes grabbing something to eat, whether fast food or take out, is the only thing keeping you going. Plus it's healthier than eating a bowl of cereal for dinner, right?

But the more we found ourselves eating out, the more we wondered: other than perhaps added salt and fat, by eating out, are we exposing ourselves to chemicals? There are a lot of steps behind the scenes before you get your melty sandwich or burger. One of these steps is that food service workers handle and serve your food with plastic gloves, some of which are made with vinyl—which can contain toxic chemicals called phthalates (THAL-eights).

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Roundups

The 10 Best Healthier & Eco-Friendly Disposable Diapers

Our picks that is good for your baby and the planet

Cloth diapering just not for you? No judgement here! When it comes to disposable diapers, we know that all parents want the best for their baby, but are often overwhelmed by the choices and all the healthy and environmental claims that companies make. We evaluated 26 diapers that claim to be non-toxic, green, or natural. We looked at whether they were free of harmful and irritating ingredients and assessed truth of their eco-friendly claims. We then developed a score for each diaper and found 10 great options in every budget.

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Home

10 Places to Buy PVC-free Wall Decals

Why it's worth considering before your next redecorating project

Wall decals are the perfect decorating solution for nurseries, kids rooms, renters, dorm dwellers, or basically anyone who is a commitment-phobe. There are endless designs that can add just the pop you need, and they are easy to remove for when you want to change it up. But most wall decals are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), otherwise known as vinyl. These vinyl stickers have added phthalates which make the plastic stickers super thin and flexible, yet durable enough so they don't rip easily. Phthalates have endocrine disrupting properties that can wreak havoc on your hormones and have been linked to a variety of health issues like cancers, infertility, preterm birth, impaired brain development, and asthma and allergies. Basically, not good stuff. Plus, the manufacturing process of PVC is really bad for the environment and communities where it's manufactured (1) and there's no way to recycle it. Eek. Not good all around.

So next time you're shopping for a wall decal, check the 'details' section on the product page. A decal that says vinyl or doesn't specify anything is probably one you want to avoid. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites that make PVC-free options that still get high marks from designers. We pulled together our top 10 favorites sites down below.

  1. Chocovenyl
  2. Eco Wall Decals
  3. Koko Kids
  4. Love Mae
  5. Oopsy Daisy
  6. Petit Collage
  7. Pop and Lolli
  8. Sunny Decals
  9. Tiny Me
  10. Wall Dressed Up


References:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/vinyl-chloride.pdf
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