Many cosmetic and personal care products contain plasticizers and frequent exposure by pregnant women could increase the risk of male babies having smaller reproductive organs, a National Taiwan University Hospital physician said.
In celebration of Earth Day yesterday, the hospital on Friday held a news conference at which academics, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Kun-yuh (吳焜裕) called for the public to reduce the use of plastic products.
Examples of everyday exposure to plasticizers include eating a hot breakfast from a plastic bag, buying hot noodles or snacks in plastic bags, eating with disposable plastic utensils, drinking hot beverages in plastic cups and eating fried chicken from greaseproof paper bags, the hospital said.
Hospital Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine director Chen Pau-chung (陳保中) said that aside from eating food containing plasticizer residue, toxic chemicals can enter the body through the skin.
Plasticizers are environmental hormone disrupters that behave like estrogen, the hospital said, adding that although both men and women naturally have estrogen, men are more susceptible than women to environmental hormone disrupters, which can cause an unbalanced endocrine system, as well as a lower sperm count.
“A fetus’ reproductive organs develop in the first 10 weeks, so a pregnant woman’s exposure to plasticizers in that period can affect its testosterone production, which can impede masculinization,” Chen said, adding that male babies might be born with smaller reproductive organs.
Research has found that when a pregnant mouse is exposed to high levels of plasticizers, its male offspring were born with smaller reproductive organs and were at greater risk of cryptorchidism, the absence of one or both testes from the scrotum, he said, adding that prolonged exposure could lead to reduced sperm concentration or even infertility.
A number of cosmetic and personal care products, including lotions, perfume and nail polish, have been found to contain plasticizers, Chen said, recommending that pregnant women and couples planning to conceive avoid using too much of these products to prevent high exposure to plasticizers.
“If a pregnant woman is exposed to a large amount of plasticizers over a prolonged period while the fetus is growing, the risk of the child developing asthma, other respiratory diseases, atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis can increase,” Evolution of Taiwan Pediatrics Association deputy secretary-general Yeung Chun-yan (楊俊仁) said.
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