In Western countries, the quality of sperm in men declines gradually, without the causes being really confirmed. According to a new study, chemical pollutants could have their share of responsibility.
If the track has already been considered more than once, two researchers from Brunel University in London and the University of Copenhagen have just confirm the role of chemical pollutants such as bisphenols or parabens in the deterioration of human sperm quality. Individually, they each possess harmful effects, which would be multiplied when in a cocktailor all mixed up.
Published this Thursday, June 9 in the magazine Environment Internationalthe study assessed “nine chemicals co-tested in urine samples from 98 young Danish men“. Among these substances, bisphenols (A,F,S) found in certain electronic equipment, food packaging or varnishes or paints; phthalates present in food packaging or household products; butylparaben present in certain cosmetics; and finally paracetamol.
And the conclusions are not reassuring: the tolerable exposures to substances associated with the deterioration of sperm quality are largely exceeded. Highly exposed patients were measured with a median level almost 20 times higher than the risk threshold. For some, the median level is even 100 times higher than the acceptable level. “Bisphenol A makes a very strong contribution, but eliminating it will not reduce combined exposures to acceptable levels“, indicates the study.
Beware of the “cocktail” effect
In addition to the pollutants mentioned above, the study mentions polychlorinated dioxins, which accumulate mainly in soils, then in fatty foods of animal origin, through the food chain. They are accused of playing a major role in the decline of male fertility. These dioxins could also increase the risk of cancer.
“One would have thought that phthalates were important factors, but their effect here is weaker“, emphasizes Professor Robert Barouki, researcher in environmental toxicology at Releasewhich also finds interesting “knowing which substances have the greatest contribution to the cocktail effect“.
If the impact is worrying for the fertility of future fathers, unborn children are also affected by these exposures. “Pregnancy is a time when cells specialize and tissues fall into place, which makes the woman and the fetus particularly vulnerable to environmental factors.“, indicated Professor Barouki during a press conference on June 2.
- Combined exposures to bisphenols, polychlorinated dioxins, paracetamol, and phthalates as drivers of deteriorating semen quality, Environment InternationalJune 9, 2022
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