A decades-long trend of lowering sperm counts in American men is in the news these days. The July 25, 2018 New York Times ran a lengthy story about the issue. It touches on possible causes, while reviewing the societal and personal implications of the changing spermatozoal landscape.
The Times piece, authored by Nellie Bowles, is motivated by the results of a published in 2017 that reviewed thousands of studies from around the world. Altogether, this collection of studies included assessment of the health of sperm in 42,935 men. of 185 studies
The research team found that between 1973 and 2011, in developed Western nations (North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) sperm counts had dropped by 52% on average (Levine et al., 2017).
As we cover on the Managing Weeds for Healthy Kids website, reduced sperm counts and other male reproductive effects are one of many known health impacts from pesticide exposure (see a list of bibliographical references linked to the issue here).
Whether rising herbicide use and exposure is the primary cause of this downward trend in sperm counts remains to be seen. Diet, activity level, and adaptations related to the shift towards monogamy are all also mentioned as possible causes (Bowles, 2018).
The article takes a hard look at how lowering sperm counts impact masculinity and self-esteem. Men are apparently talking about both, and the health industry is responding. Companies are selling at-home sperm testing kits, some with iPhone microscope attachments, so men can check in on their own semen quality.
The Managing Weeds for Healthy Kids project site has lots more information about the reproductive impacts of pesticides, please have a look and share resources you find helpful with friends.
Nellie Bowles, “The Dawning of Sperm Awareness,” The New York Times, July 25, 2018.
Hagai Levine, Niels Jørgensen, Anderson Martino-Andrade, Jaime Mendiola, Dan Weksler-Derri, Irina Mindlis, Rachel Pinotti, Shanna H Swan; Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis, Human Reproduction Update, Volume 23, Issue 6, 1 November 2017, Pages 646–659, https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx022.