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How Pollution and Plastics Are Shrinking Dicks

As our food, water and personal products become more contaminated with phthalates, more babies are being born with inchworms than foot-longs

We’ve been hearing for years that mass pollution could bring about the end of humanity as we know it. And you know what our response has been? “Whatever.” Though scientists have long predicted death and destruction from human-made chemicals, nothing seems to make our ears perk up. But what if I told you pollution could be shrinking your dick? Because there’s actually some evidence to suggest that it does.

In 2021, environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Shanna Swan published the book Count Down, which details how conditions on earth are impacting our ability to reproduce. Most frighteningly, she found that humans meet three of five possible criteria to define us as endangered. For reference, it only takes one to qualify. 

While shrinking dick sizes is decidedly not among this criteria, she posited it as a problem humans may face, too. Specifically, our reproductive woes may be linked to phthalates, a type of chemical found in plastic that can disrupt our endocrine production. In fact, plastics are so entrenched in our daily lives that babies are being born with phthalates already in their system. They get in there quite easily, too — they’re in hundreds of consumer products like cosmetics, detergents and pesticides, and they’ve been found to contaminate food and water worldwide. Because they’re small and difficult to degrade, they tend to accumulate in the environment, seeping into everything from dust to piping. Basically, it’s almost impossible not to ingest them or breathe them in. 

Research from both Swan and other scientists has linked phthalate exposure in the womb to “decreased anogenital distance and penile size in male newborns,” which could signal an inadequately developed reproductive system. “When a pregnant woman has higher body concentrations of chemicals like phthalates, which lower testosterone levels, the development of her baby boy’s genitals is disturbed,” Swan told Health last March. “This results in what has been named the ‘phthalate syndrome,’ which includes smaller penis size.” 

Swan neglected to say how much smaller — and her research doesn’t throw out a solid number — but she did mention that the phthalate problem is worsening. That means penises could shrink even more in the coming years, though again, it’s not clear how much. 

In other words, it’s not that your dick will get smaller thanks to pollution — it’s that the next generation’s will likely be smaller than yours. Unfortunately, since it doesn’t affect them directly, people probably won’t care enough to do anything about it before it’s too late. If anything, some people might even like the idea that their dicks could be considered big in a historical sense. 

But there’s a lot more to the problem than just smaller baby dicks. Testosterone levels and sperm counts are decreasing at a rate of about one percent per year, while miscarriages are rising at the same rate. Environmental causes are thought to contribute at least partially to these changes. That said, as Swan explained in her book and for Health, this is actually one of those rare things you can do something about. Per Swan, simply swapping out plastic for materials like glass whenever possible can help reduce your exposure to phthalates significantly. If you’re not gonna do it for yourself, at least do it for your future child’s penis.