Paternal Phthalate exposure and its affect on Embryos

(How Dad’s exposure to Phthalate chemicals affect future children)

If you have gone through IVF and had embryos arrest (or stop developing) after day 3, you can start to experience the painful truth that much can go wrong in the early days of embryo development.  There has always been wide speculation of how oocytes (egg) quality plays a significant role in embryo development but clearly not enough DNA fragmentation testing is done with sperm.  It takes two to tango and make an embryo.  And the health of the embryo comes from both the mom and the dad.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40% of infertility is due to Male factor issues.  We are starting to see more evidence that our exposure to certain chemicals found in our food and everyday personal care products can have detrimental effects on our health and fertility.

A new study led by environmental health scientist Richard Pilsner at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, one of the first to investigate whether preconception exposures to phthalates in fathers has an effect on reproductive success via embryo quality, found that exposures from select chemicals tested were associated with “a pronounced decrease in blastocyst quality” at an early stage in embryo development.

What in the world are Phthalates?

Phthalates are compounds found in plastics and personal care products that are estimated to be detectable in nearly 100 percent of the U.S. population. Yikes! Detectable in nearly 100% of the US population?  See below for products containing Phthalates

The authors believe theirs is the first prospective study to assess associations between paternal exposure to phthalates and embryo quality through the blastocyst stage in humans.  Pilsner and colleagues say their prospective study “provides the first data demonstrating associations between preconception paternal phthalate and phthalate alternatives and embryo development, in a critical step towards our understanding of the paternal contributions to reproductive success.” Details appear in the current issue of Human Reproduction from Oxford University Press.

This study is just the tip of the iceberg to better understanding how sperm health impacts future embryo health and survival and how chemicals in our everyday products and food impact both women and men’s fertility potential.

Have I been exposed to Phthalates?

Phthalates are used in a wide range of common products, and are released into the environment.[4] There is no covalent bond between the phthalates and plastics; rather, they are entangled within the plastic as a result of the manufacturing process used to make PVC articles.[5] They can be removed by exposure to heat or with organic solvents. Due to the ubiquity of plastics (and therefore plasticizers) in modern life, the vast majority of people are exposed to some level of phthalates, and most Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine.[6] Phthalate exposure may be through direct use or by indirect means through leaching and general environmental contamination. Diet is believed to be the main source of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and other phthalates in the general population.[6]] In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.[8] 

Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizers, dispersants, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. End-applications include adhesives and glues, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children’s toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are also frequently used in soft plastic fishing lures, caulk, paint pigments, and sex toys made of so-called “jelly rubber”. Phthalates are used in a variety of household applications such as shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.[9] – Wikipedia

Article: Parental contributions to early embryo development: influences of urinary phthalate and phthalate alternatives among couples undergoing IVF treatment, Haotian Wu, Lisa Ashcraft, Brian W. Whitcomb, Tayyab Rahil, Ellen Tougias, Cynthia K. Sites and J. Richard Pilsner, Human Reproduction, doi: 10.1093/humrep/dew301, published online 7 December 2016.

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