Sperm Quality Could Be Affected By This Super-Common Chemical

Exposure to a group of chemicals called phthalates could be linked to poor sperm quality in men, according to a new study from researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

Nearly everyone has been exposed to phthalates, which give plastic its hard quality. In one population-level survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found phthalate metabolites — evidence that our bodies have absorbed and metabolized the compound — in the general population.

While low levels of these chemicals haven’t been shown to be definitively harmful to our health, emerging research suggests that phthalates may be endocrine disrupters, which means that they could interfere with our hormones and affect things like the onset of puberty and cancer risk.

In this case, researchers found a relationship between phthalate exposure and lower sperm motility, meaning study participants’ sperm struggled to effectively move in a straight line, the way it would successfully move through the female reproductive tract.

Lund University researcher Jonatan Axelsson analyzed the urine and sperm of 300 men between the ages of 18 and 20, theoretically the age a man would have the healthiest sperm. Axelsson found that if men had higher levels of the phthalate known as DEHP, or diethylhexyl phthalate, the lower their levels of sperm motility.

Motility is measured by sperms’ ability to simply move forward in a straight line; the slower they go, or the more deviations they take, the lower their motility grade. Axlesson found that the 25 percent of men with the lowest levels of DEHP metabolites in their bodies also had more sperm that moved well — 57 percent of them moved forward. Meanwhile, for the 25 percent of men in the study with the highest levels of DEHP metabolites in their urine, only 46 percent of sperm —> Read More