I have several friends that have struggled to conceive. It seems as if the problem is growing. There are even billboards now for fertility specialists. Could something in our environment be to blame?
Scientists have found a “strong association” between exposure to pesticides and lower sperm counts in males.
Eco Watch explains:
The researchers counted semen quality according to concentration of sperm over an area, their motility and ability to move, as well as their shapes. Researchers targeted studies on DDT, HCH and abamectin, grouping pyrethroids and organophosphates by class. What they found was striking: almost all the studies reported a decrease in sperm concentration; decreased motility was also reported though less frequently; while morphological changes were not strongly associated in studies—only two indicated any changes to sperm shape. These findings build on a growing body of evidence that pesticide exposure at environmental or occupational levels diminished sperm health.
In addition to the U.S. findings, studies conducted on French, New Zealander, Indian, Tunisian, and Israeli men have all found decline in sperm count. Some studies record a drop by approximately 50 percent between 1940 and 1990, no small amount.
Of course, DDT has been banned in the United States since 1972, but it is a persistent organic pollutant, thus it is still present in our environment and food chain. The Environmental Protection Agency explains:
Since then, studies have continued, and a causal relationship between DDT exposure and reproductive effects is suspected. Today, DDT is classified as a probable human carcinogen by U.S. and international authorities. This classification is based on animal studies in which some animals developed liver tumors.
DDT is known to be very persistent in the environment, will accumulate in fatty tissues, and can travel long distances in the upper atmosphere. Since the use of DDT was discontinued in the United States, its concentration in the environment and animals has decreased, but because of its persistence, residues of concern from historical use still remain.
Pyrethroids are synthetic pesticides based on the natural pyrethrins that are derived from chrysanthemums. Organophosphates are the most common insecticides used today and are known endocrine disruptors.
If you are trying to conceive, this news may not help you unless you work in or live in an area of high pesticide use. Eating organic food will reduce your pesticide exposure.
I could not find any information on sperm recovery after pesticide exposure reduction. The best we can do is work towards tighter regulations to reduce the use of these toxic substances. As we have learned from DDT, they will persist in our environment and affect future generations.
Image: Biplane Crop Duster Spraying A Farm Field on Bigstock