‘Massive wakeup call’: Sperm count halved

A leading Australian fertility expert has sounded the alarm bells to Aussie men about rapidly decreasing sperm count, explaining it can be caused by everything from chemicals in teflon pans to the nail polish their mothers wore when they were in the womb.

Professor Roger Hart, a lead clinician for the Western Australian public fertility service, told news.com.au that sperm count has dropped by around 50 per cent over the last 50 years.

Prof Hart said while sperm count is rapidly dropping, the rates of testicular and prostate cancer are rising, suggesting the rate of decline cannot be genetic causes.

“It has got to be environmental causes,” he said.

Prof Hart is part of the world’s oldest longitudinal study of development from pre-birth through to adulthood, known as the Raine Study.

Alarmingly, the study, which tracks West Australian males from birth to adulthood, found at age 21, only 14.4 per cent had sperm that met the World Health Organisation minimum for all variables.

He described the findings as “depressing and surprising”.

He attributes the decline in male sperm count to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment, particularly when the male is in their mother’s womb.

“Early life is most crucial; this is when our organs are developing. It is a critical time,” he said.

Prof Hart’s research also found that stressful events during a mother’s pregnancy significantly reduced sperm count as well.

His work has been backed by leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Dr Shanna Swan. Both Dr Swan and Prof Hart delivered their findings to the Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand conference this week.

Speaking to the The Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Swan said chemicals now common in everyday life and the environment were impacting sperm count on male foetus development.

Chemicals known as phthalates, found in personal care products, fragrances, plastics and even dust, were among those affecting development of baby boys via the mother’s exposure in early pregnancy, Dr Swan explains.

Chemicals known as BPAs, found in plastics were also to blame.

Exposure to phthalates in the womb could mean a testosterone surge necessary for normal development of male reproductive organs may not occur.

Dr Swan predicted that by the middle of the century, many more people will rely on reproductive technologies.

“The effects don’t stop with the pregnant woman, or the pregnant woman’s offspring. The child, in the next generation will be impaired similarly,” she said.

“We have a multi-generational impact and probably impacts on life expectancy and morbidity (illness) are also going to be there for those children.”

Article Source: www.news.com.au