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Sperm Counts are Falling: How Dad's Health Affects His Offspring

Infertility, bpa and sperm counts

Are sperm taking a hit, starting in the womb?

Scientists around the world have been concerned about declining sperm counts. Late last year, for example, the European Science Foundation issued a report warning that at least one in five men age 18 to 25 is “subfertile.”

Now, in the International Journal of Andrology, scientists report that fertility in Finnish men — who have been considered to have some of the most robust sperm counts (who knew?) — could be taking a serious hit.

The study looked at men born between 1979 and 1987 and found that the ones born later in the sample had lower sperm counts on average. They also found rates of testicular cancer on the rise.

“These simultaneous and rapidly occurring adverse trends suggest that the underlying causes are environmental and, as such, preventable,” say the researchers.

You’ve heard the usual suspects like BPA, insecticides and and so forth. So is sperm taking a major hit, and, if so, is there anything couples can do about it?

The researchers say that “The best working theory we have to explain why sperm counts may be declining is that chemicals from food or the environment are affecting the development of testicles of boys in the womb or in their early years of life.”

So declining sperm quality may start with the chemicals to which a fetus is exposed. Pregnant moms have certainly been found to be awash in many known environmental toxins, some of which are “endocrine disrupters” — meaning they could alter reproductive development. From those findings we hear advice on how to cut down on chemical exposure, like eat organic fruits and veggies when you can (especially the “dirty dozen,” wash your hands and your house frequently, check your beauty and cleaning products, don’t microwave in plastic, use glass instead.

But it’s not all on mom’s shoulders. Dads are responsible too for holding up their end of reproductive health and thinking about both chemical exposure (since we have reason to think BPA and insecticides affect sperm) and health habits (since we also have reason to think a dads diet, weight, and lifestyle habits are passed on to a fetus).

This is part of a growing body of evidence that men — and their chemical exposures, weight, age, and so forth — play a major role in the health of their future offspring.

Image: wikimedia commons

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