USC Fertility


Plastics and Male Infertility

Phthalates in Plastics and Male Infertility

USC Fertility offers expert opinion on phthalates in plastics and male infertility

A recent study out of the University of Massachusetts found that phthalates in plastics and male infertility may be connected at the very earliest stages of conception when embryos form during IVF. Phthalates are the chemicals that give plastic products strength and flexibility, and have been shown to interfere with the endocrine system in both men and women. Hundreds of products contain these compounds, including shampoo bottles, raincoats, flooring and garden hoses.

Scientists recognize that phthalates have a negative impact on the fertility of lab animals, but it’s unclear as to what extent humans are affected. MedPage Today staff writer Molly Walker reached out to fertility specialists Richard Paulson, M.D., and Mary K. Samplaski, M.D., with the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, for comments on the veracity of the study on phthalates in plastics and male infertility.

The study tracked through urinalysis the phthalate levels in 50 couples about to begin an IVF cycle. Dr. Paulson, the director of our Los Angeles fertility center, said that because the study did not report pregnancy rates after the IVF cycles, “the association between phthalate exposure and embryo quality is just that, an association, and causation cannot be proven.”

More data is needed before we can make a definitive conclusion if phthalate exposure actually decreases pregnancy rates. Read more here about the MedPage Today article about the study that was published in Human Reproduction.

Common causes of male infertility

Sperm disorders are one of the leading causes of male infertility, and male factors play a part in half of all cases of infertility. Lifestyle factors, like smoking and alcohol abuse, genetics and even paternal age, can all harm a man’s sperm. However, taking proactive steps can improve the chances for healthy sperm that leads to a couple’s pregnancy.

If you have concerns about your fertility potential, a consultation with one of our fertility specialists can help you find answers and make a plan. Semen analysis can provide a clearer picture of your reproductive health. Contact us here.

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