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Why sperm counts and fertility rates are dropping

Why sperm counts and fertility rates are dropping

It's not because of almonds or pomegranates. Epidemiologist Shanna Swan (et al) confirm our worst fears. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) have us headed for infertility

In 2017, epidemiologist Shanna Swan flagged that sperm levels of an average western male had dropped a whopping 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In a new book called, Countdown, she is now examining how both human and animal fertility and health are being hijacked by endocrine disruptors - and other surprising actors.

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are in all kinds of foods, furniture, flooring, packaging, body products and frankly the air we breathe. And because EDCs are almost completely unregulated - and untested - managing their impact on you and your children is pretty much up to you. 


While that might sound dramatic, it's pretty straightforward really. If we don't have the means to reproduce, we can't reproduce. And that decision is often made in the womb.

What are Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)?

EDCs, sometimes also referred to as hormonally active agents, mimic our hormones and interfere with endocrine systems as they essentially trick our bodies. This is particularly problematic in unborn children when the body is sexually differentiating. 

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals disrupt many different hormones, which is why they have been linked to numerous adverse human health outcomes including alterations in sperm quality and fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, breast cancer, gynaecological cancers, early puberty, altered nervous system function, immune function, certain cancers, respiratory problems, metabolic issues, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, growth, neurological and learning disabilities, and small penises.

Where are EDCs found?

Endocrine disruptors are everywhere and in pretty much everything - plastics, shampoos, cosmetics, cushions, flame retardants in furniture, floor polish, plastics, pesticides, canned foods. Their presence often isn't declared on labels and even if they are, you generally wouldn't know either what they are or what they are capable of. Not least of all because most are untested on anyone but us as we live and consume.

Common EDCs

These common chemicals, courtesy of are the names to look out for when you are purchasing products - bearing in mind that they may not be listed.

Common EDCs  Used In 
DDT, Chlorpyrifos, Atrazine, 2, 4-D, Glyphosate Pesticides
Lead, Phthalates, Cadmium Children's Products
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Dioxins Industrial Solvents or Lubricants and their by products
Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates, Phenol Plastics and Food Storage Materials
Brominated Flame Retardants, PCBs Electronics and Building Materials
Phthalates, Parabens, UV Filters Personal Care Products, Medical Tubing, Sunscreen
Triclosan  Anti-Bacterial Soaps, Colgate Total
Perfluorochemicals Textiles, Clothing, Non-Stick Food Wrappers, Microwave Popcorn Bags, Old Teflon Cookware

EDC impacts are cumulative across generations

In a separate study, Patricia Ann Hunt, a reproductive geneticist at Washington State University looked at the cumulative impact of EDCs. Concerningly, the impact of EDCs seems to be passed on which each generation. In the study, 20 percent of mice in a Washington State University experiment became infertile after only 3 generations when young mice were exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals for only a few days. 

What can you do?

There is a pile of things you can do - well stop doing. The good news is that much of it is easy to implement. Store food in glass containers, not plastic, including plastic wrap. Never microwave foods in plastic or with plastic wrap on top. Avoid pesticides. Buy organic everything, but definitely produce where possible.

Don't smoke - anything. Avoid vinyl anything - pool toys, shower curtains. Avoid polyester. Don’t use air fresheners or any fragrance. Keep your house and office free of dust. Get rid of the chemicals under your sink, in your bathroom and that you put on your body.

That should keep you busy for a while! But if you have young children or are planning pregnancy, you really need to get onto it. (And in my case, if anyone can help me to convince my 16 year old that his Colgate Total has to go, I'd love your tips. :)

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