Phthalates are known to cause harm to the human body. They belong to a group that disrupts hormones. Many phthalates are found in plastics, cosmetics and even menstrual pads. They are there because certain phthalates (there is a lot of them) can either dissolve a substance or make plastics less breakable. Children, women who identify as female gender minorities and women are at greatest risk of being exposed because phthalates are frequently found in cleaning products, cosmetics and baby toys. This general statement is based in part on gender roles, which can influence and even limit choices. Incontinence sufferers from infants, toddlers, postpartum, and elderly will all be exposed to diapers. Menstruating women (including transmen) will also be exposed to them. These phthalates can be rubbed against the thin skin of our genitals.
Food can also cause endocrine-disruptors exposure. Some prescription and non-prescription medicines can be coated with phthalates. If we are given intravenous fluids at the hospital, these fluids are stored in plastic that is phthalates-based. However, although there have not been any immediate effects, rodent experiments suggest that such literal injections of the phthalates could have intergenerational consequences on the health of our children or grandchildren.
I’ve noticed two things when discussing this issue: Either people want the answer (and which ones they should replace), or they are frustrated by the inability to avoid endocrine disruptive substances. Both these perspectives are common for me, and I’ve had to admit that I was guilty of them. A third option is possible. We can look at the bigger structural problems that brought about this situation and take a step back. Our varying responsibilities and power within those structures can put us all at great risk. But some of these structural problems are especially based in sexism or racism. Sometimes, this is just physiology. This approach requires that you take time to reflect on this information and not immediately react. These endocrine disruptive agents are not likely to disappear any time soon.
Phthalates are not allowed to be used for prolonged periods
Krakow, Poland, is my favorite city on the planet. It is home to some of my most important fieldwork related to menstrual cycles. My mentor, Grazyna, a Jagiellonian University anthropologist and public health researcher, picked me up at airport when I first visited in 2002. Partly because she had parked the car there. Jasienska had a wonderful apartment in the Old Town. Because she was a resident, Jasienska was permitted to drive and park in downtown. Although there were some initial plans to reduce traffic in Krakow, they also had a purpose: to encourage tourism and provide support for local residents. However, local pollution has decreased as a result of these restrictions on parking and driving. Krakow is situated in a valley. Because of this, pollutants from the surrounding industry can drift in and linger. Additionally, traffic emissions can stagnate. The Old Town area, made of stone buildings hundreds of thousands of years ago, is beautiful. It’s also home of flower sellers, churches and traditional souvenirs such amber jewelry and embroidered blouses. The buildings are exposed to air pollutants. They also pose a threat to the health of the residents and tourists.
Particulate matter is the most common source of pollution in air, especially when it comes from higher-emission vehicles. ( View ” Auto Pollution and Sunlight Question and Answer “, January-February 2016, . . Anna Merklinger–Gruchala of Krakow University and Jasienska of Krakow University studied these different types of pollutants together in an article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. They wanted to know if combined fossil fuel combustion, heating, and traffic fuel emission have cumulative impacts on the menstrual cycle.
My first visit to Poland in 2001 was the sampling period. Based on the state’s environmental monitoring data and the characteristics relating to menstruation from 133 people who lived in Krakow, my coworkers looked at Krakow’s current air pollution levels. There were no effects on the menstrual rhythm when considering just one pollutant. However, the authors found that ovulation and menses were affected by particulate and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants are mostly caused by fossil fuels, the type that comes from older heating units. Statistics were not available for the effects of other pollutants on the menstrual period, such as carbon monoxide (and nitrogen oxides), which were not studied in this sample.
The authors calculated that exposure at the level in this study to air pollution caused a shortening by one-third of an hour. Nearly all embryo implantations occur in the middle three days of the luteal cycle. A disruption of this length by a third could indicate a significant biological phenomenon. A shorter duration of the luteal phases also means shorter menstrual cycles. This means, in the long-term, more ovulations. Research suggests that higher frequency of fertilisation may be linked to a greater risk of developing ovarian and reproductive cancers.