Fertility Crisis: Men are Running out of Sperm Due to ‘Environmental Factors’

The past 15 years have been tough on sperm cells. Research shows that men are running out of the little swimmers, and the number of men seeking infertility treatment has increased 7-fold while the quality of their sperm has plummeted. This could be more than a slight problem for humanity.

Diving into this issue more, lead researcher Dr. Ashley Tiegs and her colleagues analyzed sperm samples from fertility centers in the U.S. and Spain between 2002 and 2017.

She said:

“Total motile sperm count has shown to be more productive of outcomes for pregnancy. It’s also been correlated with embryo development and expansion routes. We wanted to know if total motile sperm count was affected and if it is declining, then what are the implications?”

During the study period, sperm counts dropped and the number of men seeking infertility treatment soared from 8,000 to 60,000, the researchers observed. The study also found an increase in the rate of male-related IVF (in-vitro fertilization) cases.

The average age of men seeking treatment was 36.

Tiegs said:

“We weren’t expecting to find that, that the trend of sperm count declining has real treatment implications.”

Read: 3 Reasons the French Sperm Count Dropped by 1/3 in 17 Years

Iin 2017, researchers at Hebrew University and the Icahn School of Medicine released data showing a 59% decrease in sperm counts since 1973.

A total motile sperm count of over 20 million is considered normal by experts. Men with a total motile sperm count of between 0 and 5 million generally have to undergo IVF treatment if they want to conceive.

Tiegs linked the disturbing decrease in sperm count and quality to “environmental factors, like plastics and smoking and obesity.”

“We know obesity is on the rise, and it does affect sperm quality. It increases the risk of morbidity and mortality, but it can also affect offspring, too.”

For example, bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical found in plastics, delivers a double-whammy in that it increases the risk of infertility in both males and females, and it has even been linked to obesity (which is also not helpful for fertility). Even more disturbing is the fact that BPA exposure during pregnancy can lead to fertility issues in male offspring.

Of course there are numerous other factors. You can do your best to avoid exposure to chemicals by avoiding plastics, buying organic foods, not smoking, choosing more natural household cleaners, and more.


[1] New York Post

Commonly-Used Household Chemicals Damage Sperm in Men, Dogs

The couch you sit on, the carpets you walk on, and even some of your kids’ toys may pose health risks due to the chemicals they are made with. In some of the latest research, it was found that a commonly-used household chemical known as DEHP may be harming fertility not only for men – but also for dogs.

The chemical DEHP – used in carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires and toys – and the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153), may harm male fertility in humans and dogs, researchers from the University of Nottingham found. And even though PCB153 is banned worldwide, it remains widely detectable in the environment. In fact, both chemicals have been found in commercially-available dog food. [2]

Laboratory tests with sperm taken from male humans and dogs showed levels of the 2 chemicals consistent with environmental exposure reduced sperm motility and increased fragmentation of DNA in both species.

Scientists have established that poor human sperm motility leads to increased DNA fragmentation in both men and dogs, which increases the likelihood of male infertility.

The findings are especially concerning in light of previous studies that show a 50% decline in human sperm quality worldwide in the past 8 decades. Another study by the same group of researchers showed a similar decline in dogs, which suggests that household chemicals are at least partly to blame. [1]

Study leader Richard Lea said in a university news release:

“This new study supports our theory that the domestic dog is indeed a ‘sentinel’ or mirror for human male reproductive decline, and our findings suggest that man-made chemicals that have been widely used in the home and working environment may be responsible for the fall in sperm quality reported in both man and dog that share the same environment.”

Lea added:

“Our previous study in dogs showed that the chemical pollutants found in the sperm of adult dogs, and in some pet foods, had a detrimental effect on sperm function at the concentrations previously found in the male reproductive tract.”

The new study is the first to test the effect of DEHP and PCB153 on both human and dog sperm in the lab, in real-world concentrations.

The scientists think there is a good chance that location determines the extent to which males are affected by the chemicals. This is because the chemicals are a large part of Western industries. Previous studies have been unable to find the same sperm decline in men and dogs living in Asia, Africa, or South America, which suggests the problem is a predominantly Western one. [2]

As well, other factors may be involved in the declining sperm quality of men and pups, such as air pollution and obesity. Still, it’s reasonable to conclude that since men and dogs are exposed to household contaminants at the same levels, those contaminants are likely affecting their sperm.

Lea said:

“Demonstrating such effects of chemicals at environmental concentrations raises awareness of these pollutants, and my hope is this will lead to steps in our personal lives to reduce or at least limit further exposures.”

The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.


[1] HealthDay

[2] Inverse

Study: Nearly 40% of Canned Goods Still Contain Gender-Bending BPA Chemical

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an endocrine disrupting chemical that is ubiquitous within our society. It was removed from baby bottles, sippy cups, and most cans of baby formula a number of years ago. But a recent study found that a lot of food packaging still contains the gender-bending substance.

Recently, the Center for Environmental Health tested more than 250 cans purchased at supermarkets and dollar stores for BPA in California, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Most of the cans were purchased at Kroger, Albertsons/Safeway, Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only.

Nearly 40% of the containers were found to contain the chemical. And while that’s less than 2 years ago, when it was 67%, it’s not exactly a small amount. [1]

The study found that 36% of Albertson’s, and 33% of Kroger’s “private label” food cans tested positive for BPA.

Charles Margulis of the Center for Environmental Health said:

“It’s still much too high. We need to get it down to zero.” [2]

BPA is used in the lining of cans, and some research indicates that low levels of it can seep into food.

According to the FDA, the current levels of BPA in food are safe. However, California recently added the substance to its Proposition 65 list as a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity.

Margulis said:

“BPA is known to cause birth defects, and it’s also linked to breast cancer, obesity, and many other serious health problems.”

Those facing the greatest health risks from BPA exposure may be low-income citizens who often rely on canned foods. The study revealed that more than half of the cans purchased at 99 Cents Only contained BPA. Past studies show that low-come communities have higher levels of BPA in their bodies than the rest of the population. [1]

Margulis commented:

“In many areas, dollar stores are the only places can go for fruits and vegetables.” [2]

Read: Are You Living in a Food Desert?

His advice is simple: buy fresh organic produce whenever possible.

BPA Facts

Source: Chemical & Engineering News

BPA is a synthetic hormone which mimics the female hormone estrogen, earning the chemical its reputation as a “gender-bender.” It has been associated with infertility, breast and reproductive system changes, and early puberty. [3]

Aside from hormonal and reproductive problems, BPA may also cause obesity, diabetes, behavioral changes in children, and resistance to chemotherapy treatments.

How to Reduce BPA Exposure

It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid BPA, but there are things you can do to reduce your family’s exposure:

  • Purchase baby formula in plastic, glass, or other non-metal containers. Choose powdered formula whenever possible, since the packaging contains less BPA, and the powder is diluted with fresh water. If you must buy your baby liquid formula, look for brands sold in plastic or glass containers, or one’s that explicitly say “BPA Free.”
  • Look for canned food labeled BPA-free, or buy food packed in glass jars or waxed cardboard cartons.
  • Repurpose old baby bottles, cups, dishes, and food containers marked with the letters “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all #7 polycarbonates contain BPA, but some of them do.
  • Never microwave food in plastic containers.

As much as 40% of store receipts may be coated in BPA as well, according to the Environmental Working Group. The chemical can rub off on hands or food items, and may be absorbed through the skin.

Source: Forbes

You can also limit your exposure to BPA through store receipts:

  • Say no to paper receipts when possible.
  • Keep receipts in an envelope.
  • Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
  • Wash your hands before preparing and eating food after handling a receipt.
  • Don’t recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues contaminate recycled paper.


[1] Center for Environmental Health

[2] CBS News

[3] Environmental Working Group

Chemical & Engineering News


Storable Food

In the Future, You Won’t Need Two Parents to Make Babies

There are test-tube babies and three-parent babies, and both generate plenty of controversy. But as it stands, making a baby still requires an egg from a mother and sperm cells from a father. Scientists say that won’t always be the case, though, because someday it will likely be possible to make babies from skin cells alone.

Last year, scientists in Japan revealed that mice had been born of eggs made from a parent’s skin cells, and researchers believe the same technique can one day be used in humans. [1]

Known as in-vitro gametogenesis, or IVG, the process allows eggs and sperm to be created in a culture dish in a lab.

The discovery could virtually wipe out infertility. It would allow same-sex couples to have children that are biologically related to both parents. A single woman could conceive on her own. The resulting embryo could be implanted into a mother’s womb, or into an artificial womb. Through IVG, the world could also see babies born with a single genetic parent or more than two genetic parents. [1], [2]

Read: GMO Babies? What Could Possibly go Wrong?

Kyle Orwig, a reproductive scientist at the University of Pittsburgh, says:

“It will create an option for people who have no options.” [2]

Ethical Conundrum

In the future IVG could spell the end of infertility, but there are multiple ethical concerns surrounding the controversial technique.

First, the Oxford Academic Journal of Law and the Biosciences published in 2015 a paper by Sonia M. Suter, professor of law at George Washington University. Her paper referred to single-parent babies as “incest on steroids” because it increases the risk of certain types of genetic disorders.

Suter said:

“Solo IVG — unlike ‘natural’ reproduction – increases the possibility of homozygosity (identical genes) for recessive genes, contributing to a greater risk of disease and disability.” [1]

According to Suter, IVG is riskier than cloning. Genetic diagnosis could be used to detect diseases before implantation, but it wouldn’t erase the risk.

In-vitro gametogenesis, combined with gene-editing technology, could be used to create “designer babies” – a worry at the very forefront for George Daley, dean of the Harvard Medical School in Boston. He says:

“One of the things I’ve been most concerned about is the use of IVG coupled with gene editing and modification to select specific traits.”

And then there’s the creepy potential for skin thieves – people who “steal” skin cells for the purpose of making a baby. Someone could give a person a light fingernail scratch and use the skin to start a family.

Another ethical concern of scientists is that:

“IVG may raise the specter of ’embryo farming’ on a scale currently unimagined, which might exacerbate concerns about the devaluation of human life.” [3]

The authors write in Science Translational Medicine:

“With science and medicine hurtling forward at breakneck speed, the rapid transformation of reproductive and regenerative medicine may surprise us. Before the inevitable, society will be well advised to strike and maintain a vigorous public conversation on the ethical challenges of IVG.”

IVG for use in humans is a long way off; but depending on the speed at which it is studied and perfected in humans, it could become a possibility much sooner than expected.


[1] CNN

[2] NBC News

Storable Food