Listen up, men! Believe it or not, every day you are exposed to a host of harmful or untested chemicals. These chemicals can be found in everyday items, from your vinyl shower curtain to your smartphone and wrinkle-free dress shirt. You’ve probably heard about women, especially pregnant women, taking steps to reduce exposure to these kinds of chemicals to protect their own health and the health of their children. But men and boys are also at risk — particularly for conditions related to sexual and reproductive health and fertility.
Many of us assume that the products we buy every day are already safe. After all, how could it be legal to put toxic and untested chemicals into a sofa cushion or child’s sippy cup? Unfortunately, the law that regulates today’s chemicals is more than 30 years old, and does not protect our families from the dangers of chemical exposure. Reform is needed to ensure that chemicals are proven to be safe before they end up in our homes, schools, and workplaces.
Mounting scientific evidence demonstrates that exposure to chemicals in every day products can reduce semen quality and lead to low sperm counts, male infertility, hormonal changes, testicular and prostate cancer, and miscarriage in your partner.
Extensive animal studies and, in some cases, human studies show that exposure during development can lead to malformations of the reproductive tract and altered prostate development, breast development, testis size, and puberty onset. The effect of toxic chemical exposures in parents on the developing brain of their child is a burgeoning research question in autism and learning disabilities studies. In one study, exposure to a chemical (DES) during pregnancy was associated with genital malformation in the grandsons of women exposed.
Certain chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, affect the body’s natural hormones, which serve particularly important functions during critical windows of development. Even minor changes can have lifelong consequences. Endocrine disruptors can have a wide range of health effects, often at low levels of exposure, and may contribute to infertility, obesity, and certain cancers.
There are a number of ways endocrine disruptors can interfere with normal hormone function, including mimicking or blocking natural processes. For example, a toxic chemical that mimics a natural hormone can act like a “key” in a “lock” that triggers or blocks the body’s hormone receptors (see diagram).
You might be surprised by some of the places toxic chemicals can hide. But the good news is there are simple changes you can make to reduce exposure today—and effective actions you can take to support chemical policy reform to make all products safer for our families.
Husband, Father and Business Owner
Steve Gauthier Labor Activist and Father
Nick Usborne Father and Writer
The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition includes nurses, parents, advocates for the learning disabled, scientists, environmental and reproductive health advocates, and concerned citizens from across the nation. These diverse groups are united by their common concern about toxic chemicals in our homes, places of work, and products we use every day.