Plastics, dioxins and paracetamol are key players in decline in male fertility

For the first time, a study ranks the chemicals most harmful to human sperm quality.

By June 10, 2022

The rapid decline in human fertility is an indication of the close links between the health of populations and the quality of their environment. British and Danish researchers highlight this once again in a study published Thursday, June 9 in the journal Environment International. Led by Andreas Kortenkamp (Brunel University, London) and Hanne Frederiksen (Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital), the authors present the first assessment of the risks to male fertility posed by mixtures of everyday chemicals.

They have succeeded in ranking the substances most suspected of damaging the quality of human sperm in order of responsibility for the current decline. Plastics are by far the most important. Bisphenol A (BPA) and its substitutes (BPS, GMP) are the worst, followed by polychlorinated dioxins and other plasticizers (phthalates), some parabens and paracetamol (acetaminophen). The researchers estimate that the median combined exposure level of the general population to these products is about 20 times the risk threshold.

A decline in male fertility has been identified for the past 30 years. A variety of factors – diet, smoking, stress, exposure to certain common chemicals, etc. – were suspected as the cause. “For the past thirty years, numerous studies have been carried out throughout the world to measure the characteristics of human sperm,” explained Pierre Jouannet, professor emeritus at the University of Paris-Descartes, one of the leading pioneers in this field of research. “The most serious of these show a decline in sperm quality, especially in the most economically developed countries.”

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