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Flexible Plastics: Not So Fantastic

You'd have to be a monk to completely escape contact with phthalates, the molecular secret sauce that makes PVC and other plastics flexible. Though these plasticizers are being phased out of many products, they're present in every room of the house in the form of nail polish, vinyl shower curtains, vinyl floor tiles, adhesives, building materials, plastic, caulk, and, ironically enough, sex toys. Turns out phthalates are also conspicuously present in men with low sperm counts and sperm with damaged DNA; in women, some scientists suspect they're linked to endometriosis, a condition that disrupts the menstrual cycle and can interfere with conception.

We ingest phthalates from dairy products, absorb them through the skin, and breathe them in as aging plastic off-gasses them into our cozy homes. What to do? Avoid buying products made with soft PVC, use glass instead of plastic in the microwave, and use glass or stainless steel for hot food and drinks (many aluminum drinking bottles have an imperceptible BPA lining). And, we're sorry to say, don't roll around in the buff on your vinyl floor.

Source: "The relationship between environmental exposures to phthalates and DNA damage in human sperm using the neutral comet assay," Environmental Health Perspectives (July 2003)
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