What are the Threats to Male Fertility?

There are many chemicals, toxins, and substances that pose a threat to male fertility. Heavy metals, like lead and cadmium, are being researched because these tend to accumulate in the body and lead to fertility issues. Also, there is the possibility that environmental pollutants could damage male fertility. Many public interest groups are currently investigating the various threats to fertility in men.


Phthalates have long been our enemy when it comes to good health and fertility. Phthalates are chemicals that cause damage when absorbed or ingested into the human body. They are commopthalatenly used as an inexpensive chemical ingredient in many consumer goods and are mostly used as a “plasticizing” agent to help keep materials together or have a smooth “easy on” effect. These plastics make everything more flexible, and are often used in bottles that hold lotions, cosmetics, and other items.

Studies show that male fertility is more affected by phthalates than female fertility. Even though both men and women alike are affected to some degree, men who are exposed are at risk for infertility. These toxic chemicals have been implicated in a range of health problems, including birth defects, cancers, and diabetes. Phthalates belong to a group of industrial compounds known as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals interfere with the endocrine system, which governs the production and distribution of hormones in the body.

Phthalate compounds can interfere with masculinization of young animals and result in odd physical changes to male reproductive tracts, according to research. Links between phthalate exposure and apparent sperm damage. The findings are supported by a host of animal studies, as the phthalates interfere with how testosterone is made. Studies also suggest that anything you can think of that’s testosterone-dependent is likely to be affected.

The Endocrine Disruptor Hypothesis

In the 1970s, agricultural and industrial workers were exposed to dibromo-chloroprane (DBCP), which is a pesticide that caused low sperm or no sperm counts. After the discovery of testicular damage in rodent laboratory subjects, the use of DBCP was suspended. The specific relevance for the studies on various pesticides and chemicals involves the endocrine-disrupting compounds related to male fertility. However, this damage to the endocrine disruptors is only speculative, as the research has only been done involving rat subjects.

In one Italian observational study, researchers examined sperm counts in relation to direct exposure to an endocrine disruptor. They found low sperm counts in sons of mothers who were exposed to dioxin and who breast fed the babies. These findings were of significant relevance, but there were no opportunities for other research studies. Therefore, the endocrine disruption hypothesis is a proposal at this point.


Another toxin that can reduce sperm counts is nicotine and tar, which is associated with smoking. Reduced sperm counts have been noted, quite consistently, among the sons of mothers who smoke during pregnancy. Fertility researchers with the University of Buffalo found that nicotine and cotinine (the substance produced when nicotine breaks down in the body) can reduce male fertility. Sperm samples collected before and after the male study participants quit smoking were analyzed, and the scientists found that it was clear that nicotine affects sperm.

Some Important Cautionary Measures

  • smokingRead the labels on cosmetics and other personal care products and to choose those without phthalates or other chemicals/toxins.
  • Another is to be cautious with plastic food containers.
  • Avoid heating and then eating and drinking from containers that’s been heated in the microwave unless it’s from glass, ceramic, or paper.
  • Dangerous compounds leach from plastics, so eat and drink from glass every chance you get. Also, cook from glass when possible, and heat your microwave quick meals in glass or paper plates. Never heat anything in a plastic bag, even if it states that you can.
  • Avoid smoking and using tobacco products.


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