I feel like I’ve been harping on about plastics since I was a teenager – I was always the teen with a glass drink bottle at school (I do remember a couple of them falling out of my locker & smashing – embarrassing!). We weren’t allowed glass drink bottles at school (you can understand why..) & so I was constantly getting in trouble until I finally switched over to a good quality stainless steel bottle. All these years later, I’m really glad that I found this drive to start my low tox life so young – because the truth about plastic and fertility is just plain old nasty.

Why should we avoid plastic?

There are so many answers to this question. Let’s break it down, from a fertility perspective:

  • Micro-plastics
  • Endocrine disrupting hormones
  • The environment

I’m going to talk about each of these three factors individually and link it back to how this affects our fertility. There’s often a focus on discussion around the effects of plastics on women’s fertility – but it affects male fertility too, as there has been a lot more discussion and research on recently.

Before we get into it, though, I want to remind you that there is no perfect way of living. We are never going to be able to avoid all plastics – it’s just not realistic. It’s all about doing our best & not stressing too much – getting yourself super worked up over buying a plastic bottle of water when you’re thirsty and out here & there really isn’t the end of the world. What I do encourage is that you look at your life has a whole, making changes where you can.

What about BPA free plastic?

In Australia now, most of our plastics (especially reusable plastics) claim to be BPA free. Does this mean that they’re safe for our use?

My short answer is no – I recommend avoiding and minimizing all plastics where possible. While some materials in plastics are monitored, such as BPA, there are still plenty of other chemicals that are in plastics. Some of which are only allowed to be used in restricted quantities, and others without these guidelines. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are also found in plastics. Studies have identified that long term exposure to phthalates can disrupt our hormones, affect chances of a successful pregnancy and affect our reproductive systems.

What increases the risk of chemicals from plastic leeching into our food/drink?

The biggest things to look out for are:

  • Exposure to higher temperatures
    • Warm food/drinks
    • Washing in the dishwasher
    • Heating in the microwave
    • Washing clothes
  • pH variation
    • Acidic foods

While bottled water is typically not exposed to high temperatures, microplastics still have been identified to be present, however in lower concentrations than described below.


Micro-plastics –

Recent studies have identified that 3 cups of takeaway coffee, purchased in disposable/takeaway cups, is enough to expose us to 75,000 microplastic particles! This highlights how easy it is to consume microplastics, without even thinking about it.

There has been an increase in research lately identifying the potential effects of microplastics on male fertility. Animal studies have shown microplastics in both the semen itself, and in higher quantities, in the testis. Microplastics in the testis have been associated with lower quantity and quality of sperm.

Microplastics have also been detected in bodily fluids, blood, stool & even the placenta! Crazy, isn’t it? When it comes to female fertility, animal studies have identified exposure to microplastics to lead to the following in the developing eggs in the ovaries:

  • DNA damage
  • Oxididative stress
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Programmed cell death
  • Decreased oocyte quality

Additionally, in this animal study, exposure to microplastics lead to inflammation of the ovaries.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals and plastics –

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) affect both male and female fertility. They are chemicals that affect our body’s own hormones.

An example of this is xenoestrogens, which can come from plastics as well as a few other sources including water and pesticides. Xenoestrogens mimic our body’s own oestrogen, and have the potential to increase oestrogen in the human body, increasing risk of:

  • Weight gain
  • PMS (in women)
  • Some cancers
  • Affecting the male reproductive tract in men, particularly affecting the prostate
  • Potentially decreasing fertility in men and women
  • Gynecomastia in men (enlargement of male breast tissue)

Our bodies are working hard to keep our hormones balanced – adding in these potent endocrine disrupting hormones can really cause some havoc and are best to be avoided where possible.

The environment –

We can’t have healthy bodies without a healthy world. Looking after our environment is so important – whether it be for the longevity of our beautiful earth or looking at how to best support our health. Microplastics are finding their way into our water supply, plastic waste is affecting our oceans.

Choosing to reduce plastics in our life, including ‘reusable’ plastics, is not only essential for our own wellness, but also the wellness of the planet.

Tips for reducing your plastic exposure –

  • Buy plastic free teabags
  • Get a reusable coffee cup that’s either made from low tox stainless steel or glass
  • Buy a drink bottle that’s either made from low tox stainless steel or glass
  • Choose plastic free for anything that’s going to go in your baby’s mouth/in contact with their warm food
    • Bottles
    • Dummies
    • Containers
    • Toys that are likely to go in children’s mouths
  • Buy more clothing made from natural fibres
    • I personally find this one really hard because often they are so much more expensive – however often these products are higher quality and built to last, so look out for sales & 2nd hand products
    • Note: This is included due to the effect of microplastics on our water supply, which can enter the water supply from washing synthetic materials in the washing machine
  • Get a water filter – I really like Zazen & Earth’s
  • Get an air purifier – this is something I’m still looking into and would love to hear your recommendations
  • Eat at a restaurant or café, rather than getting takeaway – or, take your own containers! A lot of cafes & restaurants have no issue with this
  • Take your own containers to the butcher when buying meat
  • Buy dried foods from bulk food stores in your own containers or paper bags rather than from plastic bags at the supermarket

Don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go to plan & you do end up using plastics more than you wanted to. Instead, think about what you can do next time to reduce plastic exposure. It’s a work in progress, and taking one step at a time is the best way to create new habits.

If you’d like to learn more about low-tox living, let me know & I will write more blogs like this. I’d love to create programs in the future to support you on your low tox journey. This is also something that we can work on in one on one consultations.

More than just one on one:

We know that one on one consultations simply aren’t right for everyone, and that’s why we are in the process of putting together some really great resources for those of you who would prefer to watch webinars or do self-paced online courses. Please keep an eye on our webinars page to see what we have available. By joining the mailing list we will also let you know when new resources are uploaded.

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This blog does not provide individualised health advise. The information mentioned in this blog is educational in nature and is here to help you make informed decisions regarding your health. It is essential that you work with your healthcare practitioners to assess what is right for you.

Reference list:

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. DEHP in children’s plastic items. https://www.productsafety.gov.au/product-safety-laws/safety-standards-bans/product-bans/dehp-in-childrens-plastic-items

Cuhaci, N., Polat, S., Evranos, B., Ersoy, R., & Cakir, B. (2014). Gynecomastia: Clinical evaluation and management. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 18(21). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3987263/

D’Angelo, S. & Meccariello, R. (2021). Microplastics: A Threat for Male Fertility. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7967748/

Hong, Y., Wu, S., & Wei, G. (2023). Adcerse effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on the reproductive system: A comprehensive review of fertility and potential harmful interactions. Science of the total environment. 903. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969723048830#:~:text=Exposure%20to%20EEDCs%20has%20been,et%20al.%2C%202022

Jafer, M., Ibrahim, H., & Taufiq-Yap, Y. (2018). Environmental and health effect of xenoestrogens and oestrogen found in food chain and its related cancers: Review. Biochem. Cell. Arch. 18(2). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mosa-Sahib/publication/333981199_ENVIRONMENTAL_AND_HEALTH_EFFECT_OF_XENOESTROGEN_AND_OESTROGEN_FOUND_IN_FOOD_CHAIN_AND_ITS_RELATED_CANCERS_REVIEW/links/5d10ca79a6fdcc2462a07fa2/ENVIRONMENTAL-AND-HEALTH-EFFECT-OF-XENOESTROGEN-AND-OESTROGEN-FOUND-IN-FOOD-CHAIN-AND-ITS-RELATED-CANCERS-REVIEW.pdf

Koelmans, A., Nor, N., Hermsen, E., Kooi, M., Mintenig, S., & De France, J. (2019). Water Research. 155. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0043135419301794

Samandra, S., Mescall, O., Plaisted, K., Symons, B., Xie, S., Ellis, A., & Clarke, B. (2022). Assessing exposure of the Australian population to microplastics through bottled water consumption. Science of the total environment. 837. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969722024226

Wang, Y. & Qian, H. (2021). Phthalates and Their Impacts on Human Health. Healthcare. 9(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8157593/

Zhao, Q.., Zhu, L., Weng, J., Jin, Z., Cao, Y., Jiang, H., & Zhang, Z. (2023). Detection and characterization of microplastics in the human testis and semen. Sci Total Environ, 877. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36948312/

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