Attention is now being directed at the potential role of face masks in transmitting harmful chemicals on a massive scale, at a time of increased focus on toxic chemicals in our environment. 

In a recent article, National File examined a 2020 study which showed that surgical face masks contain pthalates, a class of chemical known to have harmful effects on humans and other animals. The study, entitled ‘Surgical Face Masks as a Potential Source for Microplastic Pollution in the COVID-19 Scenario’, notes that face masks have the potential to cause serious pollution of the environment as they degrade, releasing what are known as microplastics.

Face Masks & Toxic Pollution

Microplastics are microscopic pieces of plastic that are either designed to be that size, or have become so through decay in the environment. Awareness of the harm these microscopic pieces of plastic can cause has been growing steadily with recent articles shining a spotlight on the prevalence of microplastics in utero, not just face masks.

As well as having the ability to physically cause blockages in small organisms such as baby fish, microplastics also contain a harmful chemical freight, which can be toxic to animals and to humans. In particular, pthalates, which have a variety of uses in the manufacture of plastics, are known to have hormone-disrupting properties.

Studies have shown that pre-natal exposure to pthalates may cause feminisation of baby boys and be responsible for smaller penis size at birth, as well as being responsible for more feminine behaviour as they grow. Similar effects have been documented in animals as well.

Alarm at the effects of industrial chemicals like pthalates is now becoming mainstream, years after fringe figures warned of such effects. In her new book, “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race” Professor Shanna Swan warns that widespread exposure to these chemicals may cause most men to be infertile by 2045, posing an ‘existential crisis’ for mankind.

On International Women’s Day, Dr Shanna Swan talks to CHEM Trust about her research on chemicals, fertility and reproductive health

Whether these harmful chemicals can be ingested when a surgical face mask is worn, is unclear, but the massive potential for discarded surgical masks to pollute the environment with them is already obvious. An estimated 1.56 billion masks entered the world’s oceans in 2020, potentially as much as 6,240 metric tons of plastic. 

These discarded masks cause not only immediate physical effects, for instance ending up in the stomachs of larger sea creatures like whales, but as they degrade due to the effects of wind, sun and ocean currents, inevitably they will also release their harmful chemical load into the surrounding environment.

Here at Herculean Strength, we have already considered microplastics and pthalates and other-gender-bending chemicals in depth, as well as Dr Swan’s predictions of a coming fertility apocalypse. These articles are part of a broader series we have been running in advance of our new book, ‘Reclaim Your Masculinity’, which aims to help men reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals, increase their testosterone levels and restore their proper masculine function. We have already written articles on the dreadful effects of low testosterone, including on mental health, foods that will boost your testosterone and foods that will lower it, and testosterone-boosting natural compounds.

A video on how phthalates can affect the male reproductive system

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