An analysis of 185 studies appears to confirm sperm counts in men from North America, Europe and Australia have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years, with no sign of abating. Matthew Larotonda reports.
A new scientific report appears to confirm male fertility rates have dropped by huge margins in the last 40 years. Over 50 percent, in both total sperm count and sperm concentration among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It's a claim that's been made before but and has often been contested due to variances in methodology and populations. But this time a team of researchers in Israel, the U.S., Brazil, Denmark and Spain compared data from 185 studies and 42,000 men. The trend across all of them, they say, leaves little doubt. Yet, the why of it all, is still an unknown. Professor Daniel Brison is a scientific director at the University of Manchester. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR DANIEL BRISON, UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER DEPARTMENT OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, SAYING: "It's a wake-up call that there may be something in our environment that's affecting health. Not just male fertility but male health in general, maybe health in general. And if you look back over the last 50 years of these studies a lot of things have changed in our environment - plastics, introducing new chemicals into the environment, modern agriculture hormones, pesticides, and there's just this concern that that's what we're seeing." The decrease in fertility was not seen in men from South America, Africa, and Asia, but the researchers pointed out there are also far fewer studies conducted in those places, resulting in a lack of data. Professor Brison says while individual men shouldn't be alarmed, the root cause could go back generations. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR DANIEL BRISON, UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER DEPARTMENT OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, SAYING: "Exposure could be important when the men are in utero, when the mother is pregnant, or even their grandmother when they were infected with germ cells at that stage. So nutritionists use this expression 'You are what you eat,' but you also are what your mother ate. We just don't know." The study's authors say it may act as a "canary in the coal mine" for men's health.