November is for the Boys: The Science Warns Us ALL to Avoid EDCs for Future Generations

Article Author: Minjae Song, Biochemistry major ‘23 Protect Our Breasts Science Translator

Over the past several years, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have shown to disrupt the activity of the endocrine system not only in females but also in males. In April 2020, one literature review evaluated several studies which explained how exposure to EDCs can lead to a decrease in sperm count, decrease in sperm size and quality, and lower viability of sperm.

So, why are EDCs harmful to our bodies and how are we getting exposed to them? EDCs mimic natural hormones, block their actions, and interfere with metabolic activity. EDCs are everywhere, and we are exposed to them everyday. Some examples include bisphenol A (BPA) commonly found in plastics and food packaging, phthalates in personal care products and medical devices, and dioxins found in breast milk and contaminated foods such as milk, cheese, and meat.

One window in which males can be exposed to EDCs is in utero. Research shows that when mother mice are exposed to cypermethrin, an insecticide and EDC, there is a decrease in testosterone levels and number of sperm in the offspring. EDCs exposure in utero also has the possibility of male developmental abnormalities and, therefore, reproductive abnormalities in adult life. Common reproductive health issues may include Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome (TDS), which is characterized by a wide variety of symptoms such as cryptorchidism (undescended testes), hypospadias (abnormal urethra openings), low sperm count, and an increased risk of testicular cancer.

Another recent literature review in May 2020 highlighted how a variety of animal studies have shown that male exposure to phthalates can cause epigenetic changes to sperm through a process known as DNA methylation. These epigenetic changes involve how DNA is expressed. With these epigenetic changes in a male’s sperm, abnormal reproductive development can then occur in their offspring while in a mother’s womb. This further demonstrates that phthalate exposure in males may ultimately lead to health issues in future offspring. Furthermore, not only can males be exposed to harmful chemicals in-utero, but they can also be exposed to EDCs in everyday products as well. Whichever way they are exposed, there is a negative correlation between the exposure to EDCs and the male reproductive system.

It is important for women to be aware of their exposure during vulnerable windows of susceptibility up through a woman’s first full-term pregnancy, in order to protect their children from negative health effects of EDCs. It is also important, though, for men to also be aware of exposures to chemicals of concern that may lead to harmful health effects. Choosing a safer product not only will protect yourself, but future generations to come.


Sharma, A., Mollier, J., Brocklesby, R., Caves, C., Jayasena, C. N., & Minhas, S. (April 2020). “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and male reproductive health.” Reproductive Medicine and Biology, 19(3), 243–253.

Sudipta, D., Haggerty D.K., Rappolee D.A., & Ruden D.M. (6 May 2020). “Phthalate exposure and long-term epigenomic consequences: A review.” Frontiers in Genetics, 11, 405. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.00405

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites.  POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.  

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