Phthalates, common chemicals found in many plastics and consumer products may have a negative effect on testosterone levels in men, women, and children. An article in MedlinePlus reports of a University of Michigan study which examined the effects of exposure to phthalates on testosterone levels.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that higher level exposure to the chemicals was associated with an 11 to 24 percent decline in testosterone in women and a 24 to 34 percent drop in boys aged 6 to 12. While this study does not prove causality, it does support the hypothesis that environmental effects are a factor in men with testosterone deficiency.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and is important for physical growth and strength, as well as brain function and heart health in men and women. Low testosterone in young boys can also negatively effect reproductive and physical development. Decreased testosterone levels are associated with impaired sexual function and bone health as well as decreased energy and libido.
Phthalates are most commonly found in flexible PVC plastic. They are also present in many personal care products which can result in additional exposure for consumers.
Despite the importance of testosterone, the phthalates study comes amid a questionable surge in treatment for low testosterone. The industry has grown dramatically in the past few years and is now showing possible negative affects in some men. Testosterone therapy is often prescribed to aging men who have natural reduction in testosterone. Treatments have recently been linked to heart attack and stroke risk.