Everyday chemicals may be lowering your sperm count, scrambling DNA sperm data, or causing sperm mobility problems. You might already know that narrow bike seats and antidepressants can cause problems. MSN lists seven more you might not have heard about:
1. Cash register receipts: About 40 percent of receipts are coated with bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been linked to fertility problems and low sperm count and quality.
2. Canned food: The biggest source of BPA contamination is food packaging; almost all metal cans are coated with a BPA resin.
3. Sex toys: Sex toys made of out vinyl contain phthalates, which are linked to cancer, allergies, birth defects, and infertility.
4. Your shower: Phthalates are also found in scented soaps, shampoos, and cleaners -- and in vinyl shower curtains.
5. Chemical-laced produce: Pesticides are meant to kill insect, but they can also affect your sperm.
6. Heated car seats: Heated car seats and heating pads increase testicular temperatures enough to decrease sperm production.
7. Contaminated fish: PCBs are a type of banned chemical, but enough remain in the environment to accumulate in fish.
Two of the Most Common Chemicals Linked to Reproductive Problems
Hormone-disrupting chemicals are profoundly pervasive in today's modern world. They lurk in personal care products, food containers, medical tubing, toys and more. Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates are two of the most well known culprits.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is a common ingredient in many plastics, including those in water bottles and children's toys, as well as the lining of most canned goods. It was recently discovered that even many cash register receipts contain this chemical.
BPA is so pervasive it has been detected in the umbilical cord blood of 90 percent of newborn infants tested!
Recent studies have confirmed suspicions that BPA is affecting male fertility, primarily by reducing semen quality. One such study, which provides the first epidemiological evidence of an adverse effect on semen quality, was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The study included 218 men with and without BPA exposure in the workplace, in four regions of China.
The researchers found that higher urine levels of BPA were significantly associated with:
- Decreased sperm concentration
- Decreased total sperm count
- Decreased sperm vitality
- Decreased sperm motility
Compared with those who did not have detectable levels, the men with detectable levels of BPA had more than:
- three times the risk of lowered sperm concentration and lower sperm vitality
- four times the risk of lower sperm count
- twice the risk of lower sperm motility
According to the authors:
"Similar dose-response associations were observed among men with environmental BPA exposure at levels comparable with those in the U.S population."
In women, BPA can also reduce your chances of successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) by interfering with ococyte (immature egg cell) quality. Two recent studies attest to this. One, published last December, found an inverse association between BPA concentration and normal fertilization, and the other, published earlier last year found that "BPA was detected in the urine of the majority of women undergoing IVF, and was inversely associated with number of oocytes retrieved and peak estradiol levels."
Phthalates are another group of chemicals that wreak havoc with your reproductive health. Exposure to phthalates can lead to incomplete testicular descent in fetuses, reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy or structural abnormality and inflammation in newborns.
Phthalates are commonly found in vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, plastic bags, food packaging, garden hoses, inflatable toys, blood-storage bags, intravenous medical tubing, and yes, even sex toys, as pointed out by MSN.
Other Common Chemicals Linked to Fertility Problems
While BPA and phthalates have gotten most of the media attention, there are a number of chemicals that fall into this harmful category. Others to look out for include:
- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) -- Found in grease- and water-resistant coatings like Teflon and Gore-Tex, is a likely carcinogen.
- Methoxychlor and Vinclozin-- An insecticide and a fungicide respectively, have been found to cause changes to male mice born for as many as four subsequent generations after the initial exposure.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) -- Known to be potent endocrine disrupters, these chemicals affect gene expression by turning on or off certain genes, and interfere with the way your glandular system works. They mimic the female hormone estrogen, and have been implicated as one reason behind some marine species switching from male to female.
- Bovine growth hormones commonly added to commercial dairy have been implicated as a contributor to premature adolescence.
- Non-fermented soy products, which are loaded with hormone-like substances.
- MSG -- A food additive that's been linked to reduced fertility.
- Fluoride -- This chemical in the U.S. water supply has been linked to lower fertility rates, hormone disruption and low sperm counts.