Studies link common chemicals to reproductive harm

Stronger evidence that a class of ubiquitous chemicals called phthalates — found in a wide variety of plastics, nail polishes, fragrances, and other products — are linked to adverse effects on the human reproductive system was made public Thursday. A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found a strong correlation between the level of phthalates in the urine of 85 pregnant mothers studied and abnormal genital development in their infant sons, in particular (because we know you want the particulars) smaller penises and scrotums and a higher frequency of incompletely descended testicles. Says lead author Shanna Swan, “These changes are seen at phthalate levels below those found in one-quarter of the female population of the United States.” A separate study released this week found that lab animals exposed to levels of the chemical bisphenol A many times below the U.S. EPA’s “safe dose” during pregnancy had babies with impaired mammary glands, associated with a higher risk of breast cancer in humans.