Scientists have known for some time that male fertility levels are dropping, with a decline in sperm count observed over the past few decades: Human sperm counts had fallen by nearly 50% in less than 50 years – low sperm counts are a major cause of male infertility. What has caused this decline is not certain but modern lifestyles and pollutants have been suspected.
A new study has now revealed that chemicals in everyday products including suntan lotions, toothpaste, soap and plastic toys could be damaging human sperm.
German and Danish researchers looked at 100 chemicals, many deemed to be ‘non-toxic’, and found that almost a third of them affected the way sperm swim. Certain chemicals also interfered with the sperms biochemistry which would affect its ability to fertilise the egg. Many of the products tested were everyday products that most people would be exposed to. The scientists found that often only low doses of the chemicals were needed to have an effect and also that exposure to a combination, or ‘cocktail’, of these products amplified the effect.
This is the first time scientists have shown a direct link between exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals from industrial products and adverse effects on sperm function. However, the researchers believe they have developed a new way of testing the impact of household chemicals on human sperm which will allow regulatory authorities in Europe to decide whether to ban or impose restrictions on their use in certain products.