Decreased Testosterone in Workers Exposed to Phthalates

Mitch Kennedy, ND

Phthalate esters (PE) are used in almost every plastic product on the market today. Each year, 2 to 8 million tons of PE are produced worldwide. Phthalates have been shown to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals associated with testicular and ovarian cancers, birth defects and now possibly male infertility.

While use of these products creates a low-level chronic exposure, the people manufacturing the products are placed at much higher risk due to workplace exposure to phthalates. Researchers in China measured gonadotropin and gonadal hormones in 74 male workers in a poly-vinyl chloride (vinyl) flooring plant, and compared them to an equal number of unexposed construction workers.

Compared to the unexposed workers, the exposed workers had substantial significantly elevated concentrations of phthalates (MBP & MEHP) – (p<0.001.) Testosterone was significantly lower (8.4 vs. 9.7 µg/g creatinine, p=0.019) in exposed workers than in unexposed workers, and declined as phthalate exposure increased in the factory worker group. It is suspected that both fetal and adult exposure to PE contributes to impaired human fertility.

Source: Guowei P. et al: Decreased serum free testosterone in workers exposed to high levels of Di-n-butyl Phthalate (DBP) and Di-2-ethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP), a cross-sectional study in China, http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1289/ehp.9016.


Kennedy-HeadshotMitch Kennedy, ND has a family practice in Avon, CT, and is the first ND with clinical privileges at the University of Connecticut, a teaching hospital. Before graduation from Southwest College, Kennedy earned an international reputation as a leader in pollution prevention, showing industries around the world how preventing pollution saves money.

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