Scientists warn that chemicals from everyday life are permanently harming our ability to reproduce, while causing a host of other physical and neurological conditions.
In her new book, Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist, warns that men are half as fertile as their grandfathers were, with sperm counts dropping more than 50 percent in less than half a century.
She warns that stories we consider fictional, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, are slowly becoming reality. The award-winning Hulu show based on a book of the same name features a dystopian future where religious radicalism emphasizes enslaving the few remaining fertile women for humanity’s continued reproduction.
She warns of a number of facts including obesity, smoking, alcohol, lack of exercise, regular saunas, plastics, and chemical pollutants that directly impact testosterone and estrogen.
She cites an example of one man who’s sperm quality was deemed infertile after the stresses from a job change, a smoking partner, and a new relationship. She warns that libido is also affected by the same chemicals that impact sperm quality, while emphasizing the role of a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains.
“The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival. It’s a global existential crisis,” she reports.
In her book, she reports that the chemicals found in plastics, herbicides, pesticides, beauty products, and even toothpaste are responsible for decreasing libido, fertility and even smaller male genital size.
The jury isn’t out on this little fact. Multiple studies confirm the role of plastic chemicals and pollutants on genital abnormalities.
The danger is that men are exposed to these chemicals as they develop in the wound, and are born affected. Then they’re exposed to chemicals as an adult, before passing on lower sperm quality and genital abnormalities to the next generation.
In a new study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology, scientists report that over 109 chemicals can be found in pregnant women with far-reaching implications on fertility, testosterone and genitalia size. The study was conducted by scientists from UC San Francisco, which identified the chemicals with at least 42 “mystery” chemicals originating from unknown sources.
The chemicals were not only found in pregnant women, but also in their unborn children, suggesting that the mysterious chemicals can travel through the placenta and build up in a fetus.
The study raised alarms over the high concentration of chemicals, especially because pregnancy is a “critical period of development for future health risks,” they report.
The chemicals they found include common pesticides, waterproofing agents, and anti-stick coating found on cooking utensils and pots.
An earlier study from 2018 published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reports a link between chemicals used in cookware and reduced fertility in male mice.
The results are consistent with calls for awareness and urgent action raised by the scientific community, as other researchers found out that human male sperm quality has degraded by at least 60 percent since 1970.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) can be found in thousands of products including perfumes or plastics, and interfere with the body’s ability to produce natural hormones.
Some of these chemicals include:
BPA (Bisphenol A): Often found in reusable containers, water bottles and even tap water.
Pthalates: Can be found in medical devices, food packaging, fragrances, beauty products and cosmetics.
PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls): Since ruled illegal for being 80 percent more likely to cause autism in children exposed to it, this chemical can still be found in fish and water.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been found to result in genital deformity in young boys, male infertility, endometriosis, diabetes, possible cancer, reproductive problems, ADHD, autism, reduced IQ in children, and obesity.
Chief among them are Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFC) that used to be widely popular in home cookware, particularly in tap water, food packaging, Teflon non-stick pans, nylon pants, waterproof clothing, pizza boxes, and eyeglass coatings.
This chemical can be found in 99.7 percent of Americans according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, with severe impacts on fertility and genital size.
In a 2018 Italian study, 212 male high school students who were not exposed to PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) chemicals were closely compared to 171 men from North Italy who had been exposed.
The study reports young men exposed to the chemicals had lower sperm counts, shorter penises, and weaker sperm. The study reports that young men with normal levels of pollutants feature on average a 12.5 percent reduction in genital length, and a 6.3 percent reduction in girth.
Why are men affected so deeply by these chemicals? For one, PFAS and testosterone, a primary sex development and reproduction hormone, are highly similar. As a result, the body confuses them on the cellular levels, absorbing them without any of the natural effects testosterone provides, and only the harmful symptoms PFAS bring about.
What can you do about it?
Public health experts recommend removing non-stick cookware from your home, in favour of iron skillets, clay cookware, wooden ladles and spoons. They also recommend avoiding ceramic coated cookware and aluminium pots which can release aluminium into food if you are making foods high in fats or acids,
Cast irons are particularly recommended, along with stainless steel and glass pots or pans.
Exposure to BPA, which was once used in children’s bottles and cups before becoming illegal, can also be safely mitigated. Experts advise forgoing receipts from the cashier at the counter, which can have 250 to 1000 times the amount of BPA found in a can of food. They also advise avoiding packaged and fast foods, and making your own meals at home. Finally, they suggest avoiding water and stain-proof furniture and clothing.
Sperm and testosterone levels are dropping drastically in men around the world, and it's not without effects. Older reports from the 1990s warn of falling sperm count over the last 50 years, with a rise in abnormalities such as testicular cancer.
A more recent 2017 study published in the Oxford journal of Human Reproduction Update provides the first cross-generational analysis of male fertility trends. In the Mount Sinai hospital study, over 7,000 studies were analyzed, along with sperm quality studies of 42,395 men.
Men living in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand all showed significant sperm quality and count reductions, which seem to have halved in less than 40 years. Men from non-Western regions such as South America, Africa, and Asia showed less of a decline.
The study cited diet, stress, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and pesticides. They also reported that sperm count decrease can be passed on genetically.
This poses grim prospects for most societies with a shrinking youth population, and growing elderly demographic. In 2014, nearly 40 per cent of infertility among couples was attributed to men. The CDC reports that nearly 1 in 10 couples struggles with infertility.
In a grim interview with the BBC, Dr. Hagai Levine, lead scientist on the expansive male fertility study, describes being “very worried” about the future “if we will not change the ways that we are living, and the environment and the chemicals we are exposed to.”
“Eventually we may have a problem with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species,” adds Dr. Levine.