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How Plastics Can Affect Your Love Life

Most of the attention on phthalates, a group of hormone-disrupting chemicals found in PVC plastics, has been focused on fetal and child health, particularly regarding genital and behavioral development. Recent data have shown, for example, “incomplete virilization in infant boys” and reduced masculine play as they grow up, and for girls, an earlier onset of puberty. What about affecting hormonal function in adults? I explore this in my video Avoiding Adult Exposure to Phthalates.

Men exposed to high levels of phthalate had lower testosterone levels, but that was for workers in a plastics plant. In the general population, the evidence is mixed. A study in Sweden of men in their 20s found no effect on testosterone, whereas a U.S. study on men in their 30s did find an effect, even at levels of exposure much lower than those of factory workers. When there’s conflicting evidence like this, ideally we’d put it to the test, but you can’t ethically expose people to phthalates so scientists have come up with convoluted methods like implanting the testicles from human fetuses into mice to keep them growing. We want to know about the effects on adult, not fetal, testicles, which had been harder to procure… until recently. “[C]onsent was obtained from all donors.” Now, I’ve heard of blood donors, but this is a whole other level. Researchers obtained donated testicles from prostate cancer patients who underwent castration to control their disease and, indeed, were able to get direct evidence that phthalates can inhibit testosterone production at the kinds of levels one sees in general population studies.

What about breast cancer, the number-one cancer killer of young women? Women working in automotive plastics and food canning are at five times the odds of breast cancer, suggesting a link. In a petri dish, however, phthalates didn’t seem to accelerate breast cancer growth at the levels of exposure expected in the general population. More recently, though, phthalate exposure was found to boost breast cancer cell growth in vitro at the levels found circulating in the bodies of many women. Therefore, the maximum tolerable dose set by governments should be re-evaluated.

How do you avoid the stuff? Well, when you think of plastic chemicals, you may think of water bottles, but they appear to play only a minor role. Most phthalates come from food. How do we know this? If you take people and have them stop eating for a few days, you get a significant drop in the amount of phthalates spilling into their urine. Fasting isn’t exactly sustainable, though. Thankfully, we can see similar drops from simply eating a plant-based diet for a few days, which gives us a clue as to where most phthalates are found. There were a few cases of spikes within the fasting period after showers, however, suggesting contamination in personal care products.

We can counsel patients to reduce phthalate exposures by avoiding the use of scented personal care products, soaps, and cosmetics, since phthalates are used as a fragrance carrier. Phthalates can also be found in children’s toys, as well as adult toys. “On behalf of the Danish [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA, [the Danish Technological Institute] DTI has made inquiries about the consumption pattern in connection with the use of sex toys made of rubber or plastics” to see what kind of exposure one might get “based on worst case scenarios.” Those working behind the counters at sex shops “proved to possess very little knowledge of the materials,” so the researchers had to do their own testing. It turns out that “jelly” is plasticized PVC—up to two-thirds phthalates by weight. Though the use of water-based lubricants may reduce the health risks 100-fold, phthalate exposure through lubricants may still have the opposite of the intended effect. Women with the highest levels of phthalates flowing through their bodies “had over 2.5 times the odds of reporting a lack of interest in sexual activity,” and these weren’t women in a canning factory, rather they were at typical exposure levels in America.

To find out how to lower your exposure to phthalates, see What Diet Best Lowers Phthalate Exposure?

More on hormone-disrupting chemicals in our food supply in:

Interested in learning more about improving sexual health? See:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

34 responses to “How Plastics Can Affect Your Love Life

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    1. YR,


      The whole lubricant thing made me think of that commercial with the male and female arousal lubricants or whatever they were.

      Laughing my head off because I am not going to write all the one-liners, which just flew through my mind. I am going to just suggest that all of you who bought into that need to figure out how to get aroused without chemicals. Wouldn’t want them on my private parts is all I am going to say.

      1. Joking aside.

        I know that women of a certain age start losing their lubrication is what they say, which already causes less pleasure, so the discussion for some people would be: water-based versus painful intercourse, but how dangerous is water-based?

        And if gloves at restaurants handling food cause the levels to rise in the bloodstream, I immediately ask about condoms? Other contraceptives? And what about douching plastic and rubber? Menstrual cups? Seems like there are a lot of things in this area.

        And, nope, these aren’t personal questions. Some of us are past a lot of those decisions. I just like to bring things to the discussions.

        1. I have the little angel and little devil thing which happens at these topics.

          Meaning that my sense of humor causes me to start off immediately joking around, but these are serious topics is what my final thoughts are.

      1. Yes, that is a question, which the internet wars over.


        I have seen the stupid spinach confusion bunch out on the internet and I like spinach and eat it. But I have googled and got it listed as one of the top spinach is #1 Alkalizers and also there were links saying that it is acidifying raw and neutral when cooked and there were other people with videos to only eat it raw.

        I know that we are seriously in an information war, which is beyond the doctors versus the misinformed patients versus the lampooners versus the profiteers versus the serial killers and the other countries wanting us to fail and the people wanting to share their positive testimonials and organized crime and big pharma and big food not wanting anybody to hear any of the information at all.

        I ponder that with every search. It is getting worse out there, but I have collected enough information that I am doing pretty well if spinach is what I am worried about.

        1. It is already THAT bad that you can’t just use a search engine and find out if spinach is acidifying or alkalizing and get a straight answer!

          We haven’t even seen bad yet!

  1. Hi, Cindy! Interesting question! Radiation exposure from cell phones is greatest when they are in use, transmitting and receiving signals. If the phone is off, there is no exposure, and exposure when on depends on the phone’s settings. The more notifications and messages are received when the phone is not directly in use, the more transmitting and receiving will occur while it is in a person’s pocket. With the possible exception of “butt dialing,” carrying a phone in a back pocket seems unlikely to be dangerous. More on cell phone dangers may be found here: I hope that helps!

    1. Speaking of “butt dialing”: I use my old-fashioned flip-top cell phone only if I’m meeting friends and need to tell them I’ll be late or whatever. So I rarely check the thing to see if I have any messages.

      But I did so today. I heard a message from somebody from the South Carolina Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care center. They were assuring me that the chemo I had chosen (for a dog or cat?) was the correct one to use. The gal rattled on as to why; said she had also spoken with my “husband” about it or something. The call came on December 7, four days ago, and she wanted me to get back to her right away so they could start the treatment. (Deb, I bet you’d never allow it, right?)

      It didn’t sound like a spam call, but who the hell knows these days. I’ll have to call that number tomorrow and tell them they got the wrong number.

      1. YR,


        I am not against people doing it, but, boy, I wouldn’t start there.

        After 6 months, I can confidently say that I would start with water fasting.

        Two weeks of water fasting, then, low calorie for another week, vegan, low oil with medicinal mushrooms and turmeric for a few weeks on and off. If he still wouldn’t eat vegan, I would probably make it 18 days.

        I used electrolyte water and just found peace of mind not worrying about his electrolytes.

        As far as supplements go, I still would do the mushrooms and still would do digestive enzymes and see no problem with modified citrus pectin and I still have the little red emergency Yunnan Baiyoa, but I would have only bought one box of that.

        I crossed CBD oil off because it seemed to be growing during that stage and he stopped liking it at all. I crossed B-17 and Apricot seeds, but I did give him one and he hated it so much that he was not willing to even eat out of my hand for a day. I crossed of the essential oils. As far as I could see they did nothing at all. I crossed the steroids off and he is so much stronger without them and stopped having infections and is able to stand up much better, even on slippery floors. I crossed the antibiotic natural products off because he still kept getting the bronchitis/pneumonia symptoms back until I water fasted him and those symptoms are totally gone and so are the raw patches on his legs and elbows and paws. The little tumors are gone. He goes out and walks around 4 times before I go to work hoping he isn’t going to be left behind, but I still am not bringing him to work and my brother started bringing his dog to work and my right-hand worker is a cat guy who would rebel if both animals were there.

        1. Drats, I still write confusing sentences.

          Anyway, water fasting with electrolytes is 100% what I would recommend unless the dog had Diabetes or some other condition where it would be contraindicated.

          He is walking all around now. Getting him off those stupid steroids and antibiotics was such a good choice.

          1. I forgot.

            Raw vegetables. The fact that Purdue University just gave a 1/4 cup of raw vegetables 3 days per week and lowered the risk of Cancer by 90%, that is the thing I might recommend for every dog and everybody, but it is what the American Cancer Society warns people not to overdo, because vegetables might have too many antioxidants and affect chemotherapy.

            So start with the vegetables to up the nutrition. Then, water fasting. Then, make the decision about chemotherapy after that.

            1. Deb, when I call that vet joint in SC tomorrow, I ain’t about to suggest all that to them — helpful as it is! They’re pushing chemo, of course….how else would they make their big bucks?

              Would you like to make the call for me? Maybe you could convince them to quit their Big Pharma drug peddling and look for a better way to make a living.

              Their number is 803-564-0015. :-D

                  1. Do you have a similar area code to SC?

                    I ask because decades ago my family had a landline and every year at midnight on New Year’s eve the same person would mistakenly call us thinking they were calling California. (That was shortly after I got back from California so the first year it caused some confusion, but by the third year it happened, we were old friends.)

                    1. Deb, the very first thing I did after I got the message was call their number. (After finding out who they were, of course.) It was during the daytime. The fact that I let it ring over a dozen times with no pickup made me wonder if it was a scam call.

                      But now I’m wondering if their place was affected by all the horrendous weather & power outages they’ve been down in the Southeast.

                      My area code is 845 — theirs is 803. Close but no cigar.

                    2. Actually, 803 isn’t all that close. One digit in common only.

                      Called the number again just now. Still no pickup. I hope there are no animals at their center trying to recover from chemo treatments or something. When the power goes off, they probably have generators or something, like (I think) hospitals do.

  2. “[C]onsent was obtained from all donors.” Mice can give consent to be cruelly exploited?
    What if instead of this kind of testing, we just don’t use things of this nature?

  3. Found this:

    “The study, involving more than 10,000 Americans, found that those who’d dined out the day before generally had higher urine levels of chemicals called phthalates, versus people who’d had all their meals at home.” 35% increase by eating out anywhere. They said that even the gloves the food handlers wear affect it.

    1. Phthalates are used in pesticides and herbicides and plastic tubing is used to milk cows and stores sell meat wrapped in plastic and use gloves to handle it.

      1. They are fed lower grade foods and it found in higher quantities in fats. It is also found in water if the water hasn’t been filtered enough.

          1. It would be great to have a video or blog one day on the safest way to store food in the fridge/at work. Plastic, glass, ceramic, stainless steel, etc. What should we store our food in?

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