Common chemicals are causing sperm deformity and decreased sperm counts. Action Alert!
A new study suggests that when a mother is exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during pregnancy, her son and the son’s future generations may suffer from decreased fertility. This is the latest among a mounting body of scientific evidence that links these common chemicals—found in a wide variety of products including plastics, pesticides, PVC piping, cosmetics, medical devices, and children’s toys—to the fertility crisis we are facing, and it’s time for regulators to do something about it.
We’ve reported on the fertility crisis a number of times over the years. Scientists say that approximately 90% of sperm in a typical young man are misshapen, meaning they are unable to swim correctly. Additionally, sperm counts have decreased sharply over the last seventy-five years. As one researcher bluntly stated, “Not everyone who wants to reproduce will be able to.”
There’s a great deal of evidence that points to endocrine disruptors as a major cause of this problem. Quite simply, these chemicals disrupt the proper functioning of hormones. One study found an association between higher concentrations of phthalates (a chemical used in plastics) and increased damage to sperm DNA. Another study by Canadian scientists found that adding endocrine disruptors to Lake Ontario turned male fathead minnows into intersexual fish (fish with both male and female characteristics), which are unable to reproduce. Unfortunately, these are far from the only studies positing a link between chemicals and infertility.
There’s also evidence that GMOs share some of the responsibility. A Russian study on hamsters showed that consumption of GM soybeans tended to slow their sexual maturation process and completely eliminated their ability to reproduce within just a few generations. An Austrian study uncovered similar infertility in third-generation mice that consumed GM corn.
That’s not all. Many of the herbicides and pesticides used in conventional farming are “environmental estrogens.” This means that their molecules mimic the activity of the human hormone estrogen, too much of which is not good for men or women; it also affects testosterone levels. GMO crops have exacerbated this problem. According to an animal study published in the journal Toxicology in Vitro, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup, Bayer/Monsanto’s widely used pesticide) often leaves a residue on Roundup Ready crops—and this affects testosterone levels and men’s sperm counts. It is actually toxic to testicle cells, and significantly lowers testosterone synthesis.
Consider, too, that recent research has found that “inert” ingredients in herbicides can be more toxic than the active ingredients: POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), an “inert” ingredient in Roundup, has been found to be 1,200 to 2,000 times more toxic to human cells than glyphosate.
It’s best to avoid exposure to these chemicals in the first instance, but this can be challenging given that they can be found in unexpected places, such as dental offices (there is bisphenol-A, or BPA, in dental sealants), checkout receipts that are coated with BPA, and trans fats, which have been linked with an increased risk of infertility by as much as 70%. Thankfully there are natural ways to help improve male fertility where exposure is unavoidable.
There are a number of supplements that can be of use in restoring fertility. L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine have proven benefits on sperm quality, including sperm count and motility; zinc, vitamin C, and CoQ10 also improve sperm quality. Natural medicine specialists can also help with more sophisticated tests as well as individualized food, supplement, and exercise protocols. For help finding an integrative practitioner, consult our “Find a Practitioner” page.
Although exposure oftentimes is inescapable, it shouldn’t be that way. The EPA should expedite review of these chemicals and remove those that pose dangers to fertility or human health in general. Remember that, of the 85,000 chemicals currently on the market, the EPA has reviewed about 250, and banned only five chemicals (or classes of chemicals). In 2016 Congress passed legislation that updated chemical regulation in the US, which included a mandatory requirement for the EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with enforceable deadlines and to prioritize review of chemicals that pose the greatest risk. Given the evidence that endocrine disruptors are making large numbers of men infertile, the EPA should prioritize review of these chemicals and regulate them appropriately.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and the EPA, and tell them to prioritize review of endocrine disruptors, which are causing huge spikes in infertility. Please send your message immediately.