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Chemicals Linked to Sperm Problems... Including Toothpaste?

Katlyn Joy |17, May 2014


Concerns over environmental factors in fertility are not strictly feminine concerns. A new study links common household products to impaired fertility in men.

Danish and German scientists looked at particular chemicals that cause a certain reaction, called endocrine disrupters. Endocrine disrupters essentially mess with the endocrine system functions, and the endocrine system rules hormones responsible for everything from sleep regulation to reproductive systems.

Some chemicals categorized as endocrine disrupters include phthalates, mercury, dioxin, PFCs, and BPA. These substances can be found virtually everywhere in our environment, from food, to toothpaste, to toys. Other chemicals exposed in this study included 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC). This is used in some sunscreens as a filter to ultraviolet rays. Another endocrine disrupter identified in the study was Triclosan, which is used in antibacterial products and toothpastes as well.

Researchers in this study found that the bottom line risk of exposure to these chemicals can result in sperm's impaired ability to move, to fertilize an egg or penetrate an egg.

A previous study in 2010 looked at Chinese workers in a factory who were exposed to BPA. Those workers were found to have reduced sperm counts. Other studies have linked phthalates to difficulties conceiving or carrying a child to term.

The scientists in this latest study looked at 96 endocrine disrupting chemicals and how they impacted sperm. The study observed the chemicals singly as well as in combinations. One third of the chemicals were discovered to have negative effects on sperm.

The reasons are varied. In one case, calcium is to blame. Certain endocrine disrupters altered the calcium levels of sperm and calcium ions affect different sperm processes. One specific way is that calcium has an impact on the flagellum, or the tail of the sperm that propels it in forward motion. With improper calcium levels, the sperm loses its proper motility or movement.

Another factor of endocrine disruption impairing fertility is in how they make sperm less reactive to two hormones, progesterone and prostaglandins, which are aids to helping sperm make its way to the egg.

Also, sometimes endocrine disrupters can set off the release of enzymes that help the sperm break through the egg's protective outer covering. Basically, endocrine disrupters are triggering this release too soon, before the sperm is in the vicinity of the egg, thereby wasting the reaction.

Some researchers not affiliated with the study raise the question of whether this is an accurate picture of what happens in actual reproductive situations, since this study was carried out only in the lab with test tubes, not in living mammals.

What scientists and medical professionals generally agree on is that we don't know enough about the effect commonly found chemicals have on humans, including the reproductive processes and more research is required.

The Mayo Clinic advices the following tips for men to improve sperm quality:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Keep stress in check.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Abstain from street drugs.
  • Keep the boys cool; high scrotum temps lower sperm.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Avoid using lubes during sex, or only use natural products like vegetable oil or such things.
  • Avoid toxic materials such as pesticides or lead for instance.
  • Know what medications may interfere with sperm.
  • Be aware of your biological clock; sperm quality diminishes by age 50.

Men's Health recommends the following foods to boost sperm quality:

  • Spinach and other leafy greens, as they help with better blood flow.
  • Green or black tea, daily, is an antioxidant, and will help circulation as well.
  • Eat peaches, grapefruit and oranges as vitamin C is a big boost to fertility.
  • Eggs, which can boost libido and balance hormone and stress levels.
  • A glass or two of red wine will help aid blood flow to the genitals.
  • Seeds and nuts, which help your sex hormone levels.
  • Eat your fish; those omega 3s will boost your sexual health.
  • Oatmeal will elevate testosterone.
  • Oysters; not a myth, it will aid your testosterone levels.
  • Dark chocolate will get you in the mood quicker than kissing, according to some researchers.

Related Articles

Can Vaginal Lubricants Harm Sperm?

Vitamin B6 to Treat Luteal Phase Defect?

Being Overweight Affects Chances of Conceiving

Is There A Missing Link in the Pursuit of Fertility?

Lifestyle Changes A Man Should Make When Trying To Conceive


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