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Male Reproductive Abnormalities/Infertility

Research and developed by Sarah (Steve) Mosko, Ph.D.
Updated Nov. 2004. For references click here.

Production of normal sperm has been declining dramatically in developed countries over the last half century: sperm count dropped an average of 42% from 1940 to 1990 along with significant decreases in sperm motility and the number of morphologically normal sperm.(39, 42) Given that there has been a parallel rise in the incidence of other abnormalities of male reproductive health (such as testicular cancer, undescended testes and hypospadias, i.e. abnormal location of the urethra on the penis), experts are postulating that fetal or childhood exposure to environmental estrogenic or anti-androgenic compounds (including phthalates and bisphenol-A) or other hormone disruptors produces a "Testicular Dysfunction Syndrome" that links all of these abnormalities.(40,43,85) If true, it will be at least two decades before the impact of current levels of environmental estrogens will be manifest in males born today.

Human sperm motility is reduced in a dose-response fashion when exposed to various phthalates in vitro, i.e. in a Petri dish.(80)

In men presenting to a Boston area infertility clinic, those with higher urinary levels of certain phthalates exhibited sperm abnormalities, including decreased sperm count and motility(25) and increased damage to sperm DNA.(26) Phthalates have also been found in the semen of infertile men in a study from India in which sperm abnormalities correlated significantly with the level of phthalates present.(41) In a laboratory study, human sperm motility suffered from prolonged exposure to phthalates.(63)

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