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HomeHealth articleserectile dysfunctionHow Does Dibutyl Phthalates Toxicity Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile Dysfunction - Induced By Maternal Exposure To Dibutyl Phthalate

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Dibutyl phthalates used as plasticizers affect the male reproductive system causing erectile dysfunction. Read the article to know more about it.

Written by

Dr. Osheen Kour

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At November 25, 2022
Reviewed AtSeptember 16, 2023


Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is an organic chemical compound used in plastic manufacturing industries as a plasticizer to make plastic products or polyvinyl chloride. This plastic is considered to be harmful to the environment and also causes health-related problems in humans worldwide because they are endocrine disruptors. Phthalates can cause human exposure through ingestion, inhalation, and direct contact, causing health hazards and affecting the male reproductive system. It causes a decrease in male testosterone hormone levels, which can be associated with erectile dysfunction in men. Phthalates can also lead to infertility by decreasing sperm count and sperm quality.

How Do DBP or Phthalates Cause Toxicity In Humans?

Human exposure to phthalates is possible via various environmental factors through intravenous, inhalation, or dermal route. DBP can produce toxic effects in humans during fetal life by transplacental transition and leading to embryonic and fetal developmental disorders. These chemicals also cause maturation and development of the reproductive system in males and empire genital functioning during prenatal and postnatal life. In addition, phthalates are endocrine disruptors and thus affect the reproductive hormone (testosterone) in males and their reproductive health.

What Are the Various Studies on Dibutyl Phthalates Inducing Erectile Dysfunction?

  • A study was performed on a prenatal dibutyl phthalate (DBP) exposed male rat model, and the potential effects were studied. It was found that phthalate causes decreases in testosterone levels, and the male rate model's body/ penis weight ratio was also reduced. Also, erectile dysfunction was observed in male rat models that were exposed to dibutyl phthalate as compared to the unexposed group. Therefore, it was concluded that a decrease in male sex hormones, penis fibrosis, and endothelial dysfunction could be caused by DBP exposure at any dose level. All these conditions can further lead to erectile dysfunction in males.

  • Secondly, a study on rats has also shown that exposure to lifestyle and environmental factors (plasticizers like DBP, pesticides, fungicides, plastics, and synthetic chemicals) has led to the disruption of the male reproductive system and the production of androgen in the fetus. These exposures affecting the fetal development period have produced abnormalities in males like impaired germ cell development, abnormal development of testes leading to dysfunction of Sertoli cell or Leydig cell, reduced fertility risk, decreased testosterone levels, and androgen insufficiency. All these causes can also lead to erectile dysfunction in men. Based on the fetal programming window, these studies are likely in both nonhuman primates and prenatal humans.

How Is Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosed?

  • The doctor does a Physical examination of the penis to check the nerve sensations of the penis and testicles.

  • Urine tests are also performed to find other underlying reasons and medical conditions, such as diabetes.

  • Blood samples are also taken for laboratory examination of testosterone levels, cholesterol, diabetes, and other health conditions.

  • Ultrasound is also performed with the help of a transducer held over the penis blood vessels to check for blood flow problems through a video image. This is also done by injecting medications into the penis for blood stimulation that can produce an erection during the procedure.

  • The doctor might also conduct psychological screening tests by asking questions to check for mental health status that might be the reason for erectile dysfunction.

What Are the Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction?

Various treatment options for erectile dysfunction are available depending on a person's severity, cause, and health condition. An erectile dysfunction online prescription can be obtained from a telemedicine platform or one can opt for in-person consultation. several treatment options are available.

These may include:

Oral Medications- These medications work well for men with this disorder by enhancing the nitric oxide in the body that helps muscle relaxation in the penis. They also increase the blood flow to the penis and help respond to sexual stimulation, thus improving erection. These medications include:

  • Sildenafil.

  • Tadalafil.

  • Avanafil

  • Vardenafil.

Other Medications-

  1. Alprostadil Self-Injection - This is done by injecting (Alprostadil) the medication into the penis base or side, producing an erection for an hour or so. Minor bleeding can occur due to a needle prick.

  2. Testosterone Replacement - People with low levels of testosterone hormones opt for this replacement therapy, which can also be given in combinations.

  3. Alprostadil Urethral Suppository - This therapy involves the placement of an Alprostadil suppository inside the penile urethra of your penis, which causes erection for 30 to 60 minutes, approximately after 10 minutes of therapy. This might produce a burning sensation and mild bleeding in the penis area.

Other Treatments - If the medication treatments are not very effective in some cases, the following options can be helpful:

  1. Penis Pumps - The pump helps to induce blood circulation in the penis with the help of a hollow tube which sucks the air from the penis into the tube and helps in erection by creating a vacuum by pulling blood in the penis. After an erection, the tension ring is placed at the base of the penis to hold the blood in the penis, and the vacuum device is removed. The erection continues for a couple of hours, and the ring can be removed after intercourse. The bruising and cold sensation can be felt in the penis after removing the tension ring.

  2. Penis Implants - This treatment is advised if other options are ineffective. This method is done by placing bendable implant devices on both sides of the penis and allowing you to control erection duration. The implants have provided high sexual satisfaction to those who have tried this option after failing with other techniques. However, implants have a risk of infection with them and usually are not recommended in case of urinary tract infection.


Erectile dysfunction can cause many health-related issues, but studies have also found its link with dibutyl phthalates (DBP) exposure. The chemical affects the testosterone hormone production and overexposure to glucocorticoids in the fetus, thus disrupting the male reproductive health. Phthalate exposure causing all these reproductive disorders in animals has shown abnormalities in the early developmental period of life. Human exposure to phthalate or DBP has also led to a decrease in penis size, low testosterone levels, and dysgenesis. These studies have shown links between DBP exposure and inducing erectile dysfunction, but more research is needed for a better understanding and firm conclusions.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop



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