Infertility Rates Skyrocket While Exposures to Environmental Pollutants Remain Unabated

March 29, 2021

New Book Examines Dire Consequences of Rising Human Infertility 

Earlier this month, the New York Times reviewed a new book chronicling the disturbing worldwide trend of rising infertility rates and the implication those rising rates have to the human race. Shanna Swan, PhD is an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist and also the author of Count Down, which reports on this troubling situation. Swan’s more than two decades of experience of researching falling sperm counts has earned her national and international recognition. Four years ago, the researcher made a shocking announcement that garnered a fair amount of media attention. Swan found that from 1973-2011, the total sperm count of men in Western countries dropped by 59%. Low sperm count wasn’t her only troubling discovery. Swan found the quality of the sperm had also suffered. There were more odd-shaped sperm that experienced motility issues, making egg fertilization more difficult. Even more important, the DNA contained in the sperm was more damaged. She also discovered that testosterone levels have been dropping at 1% a year since 1982, culminating in 25% of men experiencing erectile dysfunction are now under the age of 40. Women aren’t faring well either. The miscarriage rate has risen by 1% per year over the last two decades. Swan feels if these trajectories continue, artificial reproductive technologies may become a necessary tool for many couples to conceive.  According to Swan, the most likely culprit for these reproductive problems are exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. These compounds are found in everyday products like plastics, flame retardants, electronics, food packaging, pesticides, personal care products and cosmetics. These chemicals interfere with normal hormonal function, including testosterone and estrogen. They can even cross over into the placenta, altering the anatomical development of girls and boys, or even change brain function and impair the immune system. Swan speculates that men’s falling testosterone levels and sperm counts are most likely due to exposure to phthalates found in many grooming products. Interestingly, phthalates have also been implicated in the development of autism. Swan warns women about the exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) since it appears to interfere with conception and causes miscarriages in early pregnancy. Ultimately, Count Down calls for national and global actions to ban the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals in order to halt the ill effects that infertility and severe health issues cause worldwide. Swan feels the future of the human species may depend on it. 

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