Male Fertility Part 3: Environmental Factors
There are many environmental factors that can affect sperm count. The alarming revelation that sperm count has decreased by 50% in the last 50 years has brought much attention to the subject. Some attribute the decline to diet, and an increase in obesity. But with such a stark decline in a relatively short period of time, many turn with alarm towards harmful environmental factors. In this section we will talk about some environmental factors that have been studied and their effects on sperm count.
Studies have shown that pesticide exposure can significantly lower sperm count. Eating organic, buying locally, and washing fruits and vegetables before eating are all steps to help in the avoidance of pesticide exposure.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Another chemical that has been studied is BPA. BPA is a chemical compound that is used in many items commonly found today. It is considered a xenoestrogen, or an ‘estrogen mimicker’. It is an endocrine disruptor that has estrogen-like effects. It is found in things we contact on a daily basis; such as plastics, and receipts. This chemical has been shown to possibly have detrimental effects to male fertility. One study tested BPA levels in the urine of the participants. In this study, 90% of the participants had BPA levels that were higher than the safety threshold. It was found that high BPA urine levels correlated with low sperm count and motility. BPA is widely present in our society. Some good steps to take in your own home are to buy a metal water bottle instead of a plastic one, store foods in glass containers instead of plastic, and to request no receipt, or ask that it be placed in a bag.
Phthalates are found in many products, some common ones being; plastics, detergents, and personal care products. This chemical lowers sperm counts by interfering with the enzymes involved in the production of sperm. The CDC found significant levels of phthalates present in the population indicating that it is widespread. A good way to avoid this chemical is to find personal care products that do not contain it, and to avoid plastics.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
This is a chemical that was banned in 1979, but unfortunately if still found to be present in the environment. Before their ban, they entered the air, water and soil. This chemical has been studied and is found to reduce the number of motile sperm.
Perfluroalkyl acids (PFAAs)
PFAAs are a chemical that is commonly found in non-stick cookware, and cleaning products. It has also been found in food and water in areas where the soil and water was contaminated with PFAAs. In studies it has been found that men with higher blood levels of PFAAs have reduced numbers of normal sperm. Using cast iron, or stainless steel cookware as opposed to non-stick will decrease one's daily PFAA exposure.
Electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and WiFi is another suspected environmental culprit contributing to the sperm count decline. Cell phones use electromagnetic waves which transmit from the phone to the closest cell tower. It is observed that these waves are absorbed by the tissue closest to the device. For men who often keep their cell phone in their front pocket, close to the testis, this poses a significant risk. Several studies found that the usage of cell phones was associated with a decrease in sperm count, motility, viability, and normal morphology. Luckily something as simple as keeping phones in the back pocket rather than in the front close to the genitals can be beneficial.
There are many different things that can affect sperm count, and there is more research to be done. Some healthy lifestyle changes and awareness of environmental factors can make a big difference. It is also important to note that it takes about 70 days for sperm to be ejaculated from the time they are produced in the testes, so health habits should be made months before trying for a pregnancy.
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Part one here: https://www.mmnfp.com/post/male-fertility-part-1-of-3
Part two here: https://www.mmnfp.com/post/male-fertility-part-2
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