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What Flame Retardants Have to do With Your Prospects to Reproduce?

We all know by now that toxins in our home can affect our general health but did you know that flame retardants in the house can lower your chances to have kids?  If you are a male then pay attention.  And if you are a female who has a male than also pay attention…  Recent studies show that flame retardants, found in 96% of all house dust, can seriously lower a male’s chances of being a fertile stud.

Surprisingly, flame retardants are found in furniture padding, draperies, electronics equipment and plastics.  These flame retardants end up in dust and then inside of us.

Flame retardants using PBDE (polybrominated biphenyl ether) were phased out in 2004 because of their hormone altering or endocrine disturber effects.  Instead of PBDE, the industry has gradually upped the use of the organophosphate based flame retardants, TDCPP (tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate) and TPP (triphenyl phosphate).  The problem is, they still may also have hormone altering effects.

A lot of our concern has been about levels of endocrine disturbers in pregnant women and resulting hormonal problems in infants and children. But what about getting pregnant in the first place?  Is there something going on with the male contribution side of things? Why have male testosterone levels and semen quality seen a downward trend?  Very likely that part of the reason is an environmental chemical exposure.

Are flame retardants part of the problem?

You’ll be surprised to find out that research published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives delves into the question of whether or not the organophosphate flame retardants might be contributing to male hormonal and infertility problems.

To do this study they recruited men from an infertility clinic. So it’s pretty safe to say the men were there because they and their partners were having trouble getting pregnant.

What they found was that TDCPP and TPP flame retardants were found in 96% to 98% of house dust.  Each increase in the level of TPP had a 19% decrease in sperm concentration and a 10% decrease in prolactin.  Each level of increase in TDCPP had a 3% decrease in free thyroxine (free T4), a thyroid hormone that helps keep metabolism active and a 17% increase in prolactin.  Prolactin can have an effect on dopamine levels and erectile dysfunction in an indirect way.

They also measured follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estradiol, total T3 (triiodothyronine), and thyrotropin, and semen motility and morphology (how the little guys look and swim).

The results point to the possibility that we are still using flame retardants that might be causing hormone disruption and may be leading to male infertility and male hormone problems.

So, pay attention to what goes into your home.  Before you buy that overstuffed couch for your great room, you might want to think about buying one that has natural padding and doesn’t have flame retardants.  Be sure to ask if fabrics and window treatments have flame retardants.  And remember that many plastics have flame retardants as plasticizers.

If you’re curious, you can get tested to see the levels of environmental toxins in your body.  At the end of the day though, we will be exposed to toxins no matter what.  This is just the type of world we live in.

In order to help your body deal with all the stuff that doesn’t belong there, be sure to keep your excess body fat to a minimum because many environmental toxins tend to hide out there.  Eat a diet with lots of fiber and whole food nutrients to keep your detoxification system revved up.

Do some sweating regularly.  Sweating helps the body to flush out toxins that accumulate in body fat.  Mmmm, good reason for a low heat sauna session…

drAnnDr. Ann Haiden, DO is a holistic functional medicine physician based in San Jose, California.  She is an advocate of eating whole foods and living a clean environment life.  She works with people seeking natural or preventive solutions to health and wellness. (For more about Dr. Ann visit our About page.)

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • nate March 20, 2010, 5:20 am

    what about our kids that we already have, are they going to be sterile? can you explain more about the plasticizers? everything we get fromt he store has plastic covering it, do these plastics have these chemicals in them or am I connecting the wrong dots? thanks for the eye-opening article. it spurred my curiousity and my desire to hide in a bubble- maybe made out of glass instead of plastic.

  • Cameron Benz July 31, 2010, 3:37 am

    Well it would certainly slow down the breeding. jk (sort of).

    Nate, yes those items have chemicals in them. Much of the stuff you buy plastic wrapped however, has other stuff in it not attributable to the plastics. Manufactured foods are foods treated with chemicals. Chemicals are what they use to make them appeal to our taste buds, then they use plastic to wrap the food and get it to us. Assuming there isn’t any other packaging of course.

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