Plasticizers are additives of which phtalates are the most abundant ones (and bisphenol-A or BPA the best known) that are used to increase the flexibility or plasticity of the material to which they are added, normally rigid plastic and as additives in paint and adhesives.
Phtalates are not just found in obvious plastic packaging, building materials and toys, but also in fragrances, cosmetics, shampoo, shaving cream, and other cleaning detergents.
Exposure happens on a daily basis from being in contact with items like soap, shampoo, cleaners, drinking water, food and plastic containers. Plasticizers such as BPA can get into the body by leaching out of hard plastic bottles, especially if they are heated (in microwave ovens or dishwashers) or exposed to acidic solutions (tomato sauce).
Once in the body phtatalates act like synthetic hormones, throwing off the body's natural hormonal system in both men and women. In men it can cause infertility, reduced testosterone levels and, cause abnormal development of the male reproductive system in the womb.
Phthalates are also linked to recurrent miscarriage in pregnant women. BPA has even been linked to breast cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, astha and allergies.
To give an example, in one study, infertile men had significantly higher amounts of phthalates in their urine which correlated with significantly lower levels of hormones specifically thyroid and sex hormones.
The mechanism of action of phthalates within the male body is through the function of Leydig cells that produce testosterone and insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3) which both play a role in the creation of sperm and determine its quality.
Men that want to become fathers are encouraged to avoid exposure to xeno-hormones by avoiding eating, drinking or storing food in plastic containers. They are also recommended to choose natural body care products with non-chemical ingredients. As well as to eat whole, fresh foods rich in antioxidants, male-specific vitamins and minerals, lean organic protein and good fats.
Don't waste your time looking for labels on plastic containers claiming to be BPA-free, since some chemicals used to replace BPA may be just as dangerous to your health, as they are also releasing synthetic estrogens. The best way to reduce exposure is to replace plastic drinking bottles and storage containers entirely with glass or metal.