Blame the pollutants?

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Infertility is the failure to get pregnant despite having unprotected sex for at least 12 months.
  • Up to 25% of infertility cases are unexplained.

According to Inserm, about one in eight couples in France consults a doctor about difficulties conceiving a child. In three quarters of the cases, the infertility is either male or female in origin or affects both sexes. To better understand male infertility, two researchers, Andreas Kortenkamp from Brunel University in London and Hanne Frederiksen from the University of Copenhagen, worked on the link between everyday pollutants and the deterioration of sperm quality. Their study has just been published in the journal Environment international.

“Nine Chemicals Tested in Urine Samples”

The mix of chemical pollutants in everyday products could explain the decline in male fertility, scientists say. To reach this conclusion, the authors analyzed “Nine jointly controlled chemicals in urine samples from 98 young Danish men”. Thus, the authors found several substances that are dangerous for male fertility. Above all, bisphenols (A, F, S), which occur in the manufacture of electrical appliances, food packaging, but also in paints and varnishes.

The list of hazardous pollutants

Phthalates (DEHP, DnBP, BBzP, DiNP) are also pollutants that have been detected in humans. These substances are typically found in the packaging of household and food products. Also found in the young men’s urine samples were polychlorinated dioxins, products found in food, and butylparaben, a component of certain cosmetics. Finally, the last proven dangerous substance: paracetamol.

According to the authors, the mean exposure to these substances is about twenty times the current risk threshold. For some products it was even 100 times above this threshold. Therefore, for the authors, it is this excessive pollution that would explain the decline in male fertility.

But other factors can also explain this phenomenon. According to Inserm “Abnormalities in spermatogenesis (the formation of sperm) are by far the most common cause of male infertility. Abnormalities may be related to the quantity or quality of sperm.”. There are also other elements that are directly related to the hygiene of life, such as smoking, diet, stress or being overweight.

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