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Will ‘forever chemicals’ hinder human reproductive ability?

Samples taken from 100 men in Denmark reveal the presence of a ‘cocktail’ of toxic chemicals, causing scientists to question how these chemicals are affecting our ability to reproduce.

While a large portion of Gen-Z isn’t exactly rushing to populate the Earth (duh, it’s burning!), there’s been concern in recent years that declining sperm counts in men could lead to population problems in the future.

Research from the early 90s detected a 50 percent decline in global sperm counts globally when compared to the 1970s. In a study conducted two decades later, that number had shot up closer to 60 percent.

Today, nearly 1 in 8 American couples struggle with infertility, but pinpointing the cause of male infertility is not an easy task for reproductive specialists. Genetic diseases, hormonal imbalances, and other factors – stress, obesity, smoking, drug use, and sedentary lifestyles – can all play a part.

But what about the things we can’t always avoid, like the ‘forever chemicals’ embedded in fast food wrappers or added into cosmetic products? What impact are these having on our ability to have a future mini-me?

 

 

A recent study on Danish men aged 18 to 30 years old discovered ‘alarming’ quantities of bisphenol, phthalates, and dioxins in their urine samples. The levels of these chemicals in the body were reported 100x higher than considered safe.

Phthalates (for example, BPA & BPS) are used in everyday plastics and can be used to make coatings for heat, water, and stain resistant products. They will never naturally break down, instead accumulating in humans and our environments over time.

These plastic chemicals are known to mimic hormones such as oestrogen, interfering with human pathways to inhibit the effects of testosterone – ultimately messing with the reproductive capabilities of men and young adults, too.

Experts say that while headlines claiming the human race will die out due to declining sperm count are overdramatic and unfounded, evidence that phthalates, pesticides, heavy metals, toxic gases, and other synthetic materials are hindering human fertility is growing.

Understanding the effects of these chemicals has seen studies focus more on sperm motility (the amount of healthy, swimming sperm) over traditional research’s fixation with sperm count, which – at face value – doesn’t paint a clear picture of whether the sperm present is healthy, mutated, or immobile.

And while more research is needed, especially in the field of women’s reproductive health, studies can ascertain that ‘forever chemicals’ aren’t good for our bodies – and one would be wise to believe this doesn’t omit reproductive systems.

 

The bad news is, reducing our exposure to these chemicals won’t be easy as they are found in almost everything we use daily.

That said, it may be reassuring to know that the EU has pretty strict regulations for the use of phthalates. In fact, 40 percent of all product recalls in the year 2018 occurred as a result of their inclusion.

Across the pond in the US, regulations aren’t as strict – but the Consumer Product Safety Commission did ban the use of eight ortho-phthalates in children’s toys and child-care items in 2017.

Fast food restaurants are striving to abandon toxicity, with Burger King pledging to remove forever chemicals from its packaging by 2025. But medical scientists continue to strongly encourage cooking at home as often as possible to reduce chemical exposure.

There goes my Monday night sushi delivery…

 

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