NEW YORK (Agencies): A comprehensive analysis of studies spanning five decades suggests that pesticides used in homes, gardens, and food crops are contributing to a significant decline in sperm count among men worldwide. According to senior study author Melissa Perry, Dean of the College of Public Health at George Mason University, sperm concentration has fallen by approximately 50% globally over 50 years.

The study specifically points to two common insecticides, organophosphates and N-methyl carbamates, as strongly associated with the decline in sperm concentration. Organophosphates, widely used in agriculture and household applications, are also components of nerve gas, herbicides, and pesticides. N-methyl carbamates, structurally similar to organophosphates, are employed in insecticides for various crops.

The research, examining 25 studies globally, revealed that men more highly exposed to these pesticides, such as those in agriculture, had significantly lower sperm concentration. Sperm count and concentration are critical factors in assessing future fertility. Animal studies suggest that these pesticides may interfere with sexual hormones, damage testicular cells, and impact neurotransmitters affecting sperm production.

In addition to pesticide exposure, researchers are exploring other factors contributing to declining sperm count, including obesity, poor diet, chronic disease, and environmental toxins such as pollution and PFAS. A recent study also highlighted a potential link between high mobile phone use and low sperm count.

The study underscores the need for action to reduce insecticide exposure, emphasizing the importance of choosing organic foods to minimize pesticide exposure. Washing produce thoroughly and adopting other hygiene measures can also help reduce pesticide levels, providing practical steps for consumers concerned about their health and fertility.

  • Note: The study was originally published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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