Incoming studies are predicting that the sperm count of humans is declining rapidly to the levels below that are considered adequate for fertility. This is one of the alarming claims made by Shanna Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist who has worked several years on this to raft enough evidence that the sperm count of Western men has plunged over by 50 percent in the last 40 years. If that’s the case, men today who are reading this article will have only half of the sperm count that their grandfathers had during their period. At this rate, it is said that men could have little or no reproductive capacity by 2060.
Although these claims are shocking, these are intensely backed by the growing evidence that’s pointing out the reproductive abnormalities both in humans as well as in animals. Right now, we cannot conclude whether this declining trend will continue and whether we will go extinct. But it is very clear that the chemicals surrounding us need better protection to save the reproductive capacities of both humans and animals.
Studies pointing out declining sperm count are not new, and this declining trend started to receive attention in 1990. Then in 2017 more intensive study revealed that Western men had declined sperm count about 50 to 60 percent between 1973 and 2011. The average decrease in the sperm count was 1-2 percentage every year. The lower the sperm count, the lower the rate of conception by natural intercourse. Swan points out that this will force most couples to opt for assisted reproduction to get conceived by 2045. Moreover, this will also alarmingly increase the rate of miscarriages and other developmental abnormalities in the fetus leading to death or difficulty in their lifestyle.
The decline is attributed not to single but many factors. The major impact is created by the change in lifestyle after the 1970s, including diet, exercise, alcohol intake, which all have impacted the sperm count directly or indirectly. But researchers have also pointed out this starts in the fetal stage before any lifestyle factors have an impact. This especially occurs in the period when fetal masculinization takes place. During this period, certain chemicals cause disruptions in hormone signaling that cause a lasting impact on reproduction till adulthood. These disruptions are caused by chemicals we use on our daily basis and are called hormone-disrupting chemicals. We are exposed to them every day while we eat, drink, breathe, and the products we use on our skin glow up. Exposure to these chemicals during the pregnancy will the greatest determine factor on how much this will impact the hormonal balance.
As days pass, the environment is getting more and more polluted, and therefore this may produce long-lasting impacts on the sperm count in the coming generations. We should also see that it is not just one chemical that’s causing disruption. Different classes of chemicals ranging from pesticides to plastics are affecting our hormones and causing disruption.
These chemicals have taken a toll on the reproductive health of animals too. A recent study points out that pet dogs are suffering a decrease in sperm count for the same reason as humans. Marine organisms like shrimp, fishes, and even alligators have been affected by these chemicals. Even species like killer whales which are said to be free and far from polluted environments, are said to have been affected by these chemicals.
In many instances, the chemicals affecting animals and humans are different. But as a whole, all of these chemicals do have disruptive effects on both, and it is essential that both of them are needed to make this earth what it is now. And to achieve that balance, we need more robust, safe alternatives to protect future generations. The UK and the EU are already building new chemical strategies and chemical regulations to prevent harmful and banned substances. But we need more pressure from the public that could demand change in the policies and put pressure on the policymakers to make sustainable changes.
Source: The Conservation
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