The Unexamined Life

Common Chemical On Clothes, Toys Linked To Fertility Problems

Researchers are warning about the negative effects of exposure to a chemical added to many commonly used consumer products. They found that even short-term exposure through some toys, clothes and devices could cause problems with fertility in both men and women. 

The new study, published in PLOS Genetics, provides another evidence of how DEHP, or di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, negatively affects the body. The chemical has long been linked to numerous health problems, such as birth defects and male infertility, MedicalXpress reported

DEHP helps make plastic products more flexible. Because of its potential effects on health, governments in the U.S. and Europe passed laws reducing the amounts of the chemical added to some products, includings toys, food packaging, cosmetics, medical devices and electrical cables. 

However, DEHP could still affect the body even at low levels. The new study shows that it could disrupt meiosis, the process supporting the production of egg and sperm cells. 

"These are completely new findings and hopefully will shed some light as to how this phthalate impacts human reproductive health," Monica Colaiácovo, senior study author and a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said. 

For the study, the researchers observed the effects of DEHP on Caenorhabditis elegans. These worms have been widely used as a model organism for studying human genetics and biology.

Researchers found that worms exposed to DEHP had more double-strand DNA breaks when the worms' "parental" genetic material recombined in their eggs. The higher number of breaks led to abnormal morphology of chromosomes, eggs with the wrong number of chromosomes and embryos that were less viable.

The team noted that the worms that experienced fertility problems were exposed to DEHP at levels lower than the average human exposure. That means that even small amounts of the chemical in the body can disrupt meiosis.

In an earlier research, Colaiácovo and colleagues found that C. elegans exposed to DEHP also had abnormal numbers of chromosomes. Having such abnormalities could make people 35 percent more likely to experience miscarriages and 4 percent for stillbirths and infertility.

The researchers plan to continue the study to further understand how DEHP exposure causes negative changes in humans. 

Toy DEHP, or di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, a chemical found in toys, food packaging and cosmetics, has been linked to numerous health problems, such as birth defects and infertility. Pixabay