In 2017, a study was published concluding that sperm counts had declined at a rate of 1 per cent per year over the past 50 years. That was alarming to hear. Last year, that study was updated. Shockingly, the authors discovered that since the start of the 21st century, sperm counts worldwide had been declining by 2.64 per cent each year.

One of the authors of these studies, leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Shanna Swan, explained that while lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, alcohol, physical fitness, stress levels and personal decisions cannot be dismissed, environmental exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals like those found in pesticides, herbicides and plastics are also significant contributors to the changes we are seeing.

EDCs interfere with our body’s endocrine system, which produces and controls our hormones. They can impact our metabolism — contributing to obesity — thyroid function and, among many others, our sex hormones, which are responsible for fertility. Sex hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen are needed for our bodies to produce healthy sperm and eggs. When our body is contaminated with EDCs, we may have difficulty conceiving either from the male side, through lower sperm counts, or the female side, with irregular menstruation (periods), anovulation (no ovulation with each menstrual cycle) or early menopause.

In women, EDCs have also been linked to miscarriages and fibroids. Fibroids are non-cancerous tumours that grow in or around the uterus and can cause multiple issues. As well as reproductive problems, they can cause pelvic and back pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and pain during sex.

A low sperm count is not only a reproductive concern, but even more frightening is that it is an indicator for other health problems in men. Studies, while still limited, have found a potential link between EDCs and erectile dysfunction. Low testosterone and low sperm counts are a predictor for increased mortality in men.

Read more here: