Written By: Kristi Caruana
In our bustling modern lives, most of us try to strive for cleanliness through the products we use and food we consume. But what if these seemingly harmless everyday items are secretly jeopardizing our fertility?
Hidden within the aisles of personal care products and the shelves of our grocery store lie a variety of hormone disruptors. Fertility disruptors are substances which are openly known to cause harm to or have adverse effects on reproductive health and hormone regulation in the body. Unbeknownst to many, these disruptors infiltrate our body washes, lotions, hair care products, cosmetics, deodorants and even our food, silently wrecking havoc on our reproductive health. The gravity of the situation lies in the fact that the products we use and consume have the ability to disrupt hormonal balance and impair our fertility, yet many consumers are simply unaware that they're exposing themselves to these harmful substances. One would assume that substances directly affecting reproductive health would be strictly regulated, ensuring that consumers are free from their risks simply because they're not allowed. However, the reality is that many of these substances are allowed in our personal care products and food items. Here at The Freedom Guide we firmly believe that knowledge is power. As a community, we empower others to navigate the array of consumers choices and to advocate for safer, more sustainable products when we take time to educate ourselves on the products we buy and consume. In a modern world where our choices define our well-being, it's essential for us to recognize the power of our collective voices and demand greater transparency within our products! Join us on an eye-opening journey as we delve deep into the world of fertility disruptors, unravel their detrimental effects, and empower ourselves as conscious consumers to be armed with the knowledge necessary to protect our reproductive health.
Personal Care Products and Hormone Disruptors:
Each of our daily personal care routines involve using products such as body washes, face washes, lotions, shampoos, hair care products, deodorant, and in some cases, cosmetics. Unfortunately many of these products are rampant with additives that can disrupt our bodies delicate hormone balance, some of the most common ones being:
Parabens: Parabens are one of the scariest and most deceptive compounds because they have the ability to mimic estrogen in the body. Parabens are a class of synthetic preservatives commonly used in making plastic, cosmetics, skincare products, and sadly, yes even as a preservative in food packaging. Used for the same reason across both the beauty and food industries for their ability to sterilize products from the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold helping to extend shelf life, parabens have a similar effect on our internal body. They sterilize. For decades parabens have been designated as hormone disruptors due to their ability to mimic estrogen and interfere with natural hormone processes. These disruptions affect the production of other critical fertility hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. These substances have been shown to cause developmental damage in fetuses, decrease sperm quality, quantity, mobility, and ovarian dysfunction in women.
Phthalates: This group of chemicals is used in making plastic, household items (PVC, vinyl flooring, household plastics, plastic toys, adhesives, sealants), cosmetics, and personal care products. These chemicals are also known endocrine disruptors, mimicking and blocking the production of estrogen and testosterone. Similar to parabens, phthalates have long been associated with impaired female and male fertility, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and long term structural abnormalities in reproductive organs.
Triclosan: An antibacterial and anti-fungal agent that's widely used in personal care products. From deodorant, to toothpaste, to soaps and cleaning products, if you aren't checking then chances are triclosan is in it. While its intent is to stall the growth of bacteria and promote hygiene, triclosan exposure has been asssociated with various fertility concerns. Triclosan particularly targets estrogen and progesterone in the body, which are critical for reproductive health. This compound has been shown to have adverse effects on the development of reproductive organs, impair egg and sperm quality, and disrupt an embroy's ability to implant in the uterus.
BPA: While BPA is widely known for its presence in food and beverage containers, primarily water bottles, it can also be found in a variety of personal care products. BPA is classified as a hormone disruptor for its ability to synthetically mimic and block the body's natural production of estrogen. BPA has been shown to physically alter gene expressions, meaning that it can create changes that will affect your future babies and their future babies. Along with this, BPA has also long been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, testosterone disruption, and impaired ovarian function.
"Fragrance": While fragrances are added to enhance the sensory experience of products, they can have serious implications on our fertility. Synthetic fragrances are made out of a mystery cocktail of chemicals and ingredients, most of which are left undisclosed on the label. Manufacturer's aren't legally obligated to share their fragrance formulations with the public, evading transparency under the guise of "trade secret protections". These fragrances may contain chedmicals that are known or suspected to be toxic to human health and fertility, including phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde releasing agents. Aside from their association to an increased risk of skin sensitivities and conditions, fragrances can adversely affect fertility and reproductive health. Common ingredients found within fragranced products, like phthalates, have been associated with altered hormone levels and impaired fertility. Unfortunately in the case of fragrances, the lack of labeling transparency makes it challenging for consumers to know what chemicals they're being exposed to.
Coal Tar: You may be shocked to find that coal tar is another common hormone disrupting ingredient potentially inside of the products you use. From anti-dandruff shampoos, to hair dyes, to nail polish, to skin care products, coal tar can potentially be the star ingredient. Coal tar and its derivatives contain substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been associated with severe reproductive toxicity. Studies have shown that coal tar can disrupt hormone balance, affect reproductive organ development and function, and impair fertility in both males and females.
Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a known neurotoxin with fatal effects, so why not use a derivative of it in personal care products? Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are actually a real thing, preventing bacterial growth and extending shelf life. Ingredients such as "DMDM hydantoin", "quaternium-15", and "diazolidinyl urea" can be found in a variety of personal care products, including shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, washes, cosmetics, and even baby care products.
SLS: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS is an emulsifier additive commonly found in hair care products, soaps, body washes, facial cleansers, toothpastes, and bubble bath blends. SLS has been shown to particularly harm the sensitive mucus membranes found in our intimate areas-- Excessive dryness and irritation to these membranes can directly impact the mucus membranes naturally found in our reproductive organs, affecting fertility. Some studies have even suggested an association between SLS and decreased sperm quality.
Oxybenzone: A chemical compound commonly found in chemical sunscreen/SPF cosmetics, lip balms, and moisturizers. This compound has been shown to mimic and interfere with estrogen production in the body, leading to a cascading list of fertility challenges. Aside from being horrible for reproductive health, places like Hawaii and certain coastal regions of Florida have banned this chemical for its association to coral bleaching and irrevocable damage to marine life.
Food and Hormone Disruptors:
Food is something that we all need, and it's the choices correlated to our food that are typically overlooked the most. The modern food industry also utilizes a host of chemicals that have unintended consequences on reproductive health, let's explore:
Pesticides and Herbicides: Many conventional pesticides and herbicides contain chemicals that act as hormone disruptors-- In many instances these substances have been recalled due to the deteriorating long term health of those that worked with them, proving the toxicity of their prolonged exposure. Glyphosate, also known as RoundUp Weed Killer, is the most widely used herbicide in conventional agriculture. Despite being "number one", RoundUp's manufacturer's have been at the tail end of over 100,000 class action lawsuits due to its carcinogenic properties.
Food Packaging (BPA): Certain food packaging materials, like plastic containers, water bottles, and cans lined with bisephonal A (BPA), can leach into our food. BPA is known to mimic the structure and function of estrogen, a critical hormone for reproductive processes. When consumed, BPA can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, leading to hormone imbalances and serious disruptions in reproductive health. For women, BPA has been shown to result in irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian dysfunction, and pregnancy complications such as miscarriage. For men, BPA has been shown to have anti-androgenic properties, harming sperm quality, quantity, and fertility.
Antibiotics in Animal Products: Antibiotics are used in animal farming to help prevent disease and even promote growth. This sounds fine and well until we realize that these excess antibiotics have effects on the animal as well as for us! These synthetic antibiotics are commonly overused in conventional farming practices, contributing to antibiotic resistance and harm to our gut microbiome. Our gut health is directly tied to our hormone health, so there are large implications when this delicate balance of bacteria is disturbed. Some antibiotics have been found to disrupt the normal production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, leading to further hormone imbalances and adverse effects on fertility.
Synthetic Growth Hormones: Growth hormones are typically used in conventional farming to increase milk production and promote rapid growth. When animals are given these hormones, a portion can end up in their milk and meat. Hormones are often injected into the animal directly or strewn into the feed, absorbing into the animals tissue and milk supply, potentially accumulating over time. The use of synthetic estrogens, progesterone, or testosterone in our food has been shown to openly interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system, contributing to hormone imbalances, early puberty onset, reduced sperm quality, disrupted menstrual cycles, infertility, and the increased risk of certain hormone-driven cancers.
Perfluorooctanoic Acid: Used in the making of nonstick cookware and food packaging, such as for microwave popcorn or fast food wrappers, has been associated with adverse effects on reproductive health. These include fertility issues, hormone imbalances, developmental issues/pregnancy complications, and even an increased risk of developing endometriosis (a painful condition in which tissue hardens outside or around the uterus).
It's alarming that many consumers are unknowingly exposed to these substances, highlighting the need for increased awareness and conscious consumer choices. By being informed about the products we use and food we consume, we can protect our reproductive health and advocate for safer alternatives. It's crucial to recognize the power of our voices as consumers and demand stricter regulations and transparency in product labeling. Together, we can strive for a future where fertility and reproductive health are safeguarded across all industries.