Sperm counts in men from America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years, pointing to a decline in male fertility, research shows. Amy Pollock reports.
Male fertility in the developed world is in sharp decline. A new study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows a 52.4 percent fall in sperm concentration While total sperm count fell 59.3 percent between 1973 and 2011. It's a wake-up call for men, according to the researchers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEAD RESEARCHER AT HEBREW UNIVERSITY-HADASSAH SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, HAGAI LEVINE, SAYING: "Our findings of sharp decline in sperm count among western men is the canary in the coal mine. It signifies that we have a serious problem with the health of men in the western world." That's because sperm count is a marker of men's general health as well as fertility. The study analysed sperm count studies from across the world - and the trend was reflected in America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The next step is to investigate the causes of male infertility, (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEAD RESEARCHER AT HEBREW UNIVERSITY-HADASSAH SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, HAGAI LEVINE, SAYING: "From previous research we know that exposure to man-made chemicals, especially during the critical period of the development of the male reproductive system in pre-natal life, in the early stages of pregnancy can severaly disrupt and can manifest later in life as low sperm count and problems with male fertility." The study controlled for factors like age, sexual activity and the types of men, making its conclusions more reliable. SOUNDBITE) (English) SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER DEPARTMENT OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, PROFESSOR DANIEL BRISON, SAYING: "So if, for example, you have 50 studies in one country and they all show the same trend in declining sperm counts, including different counting methods in different groups of men, that makes it much more likely that it's real." The decline shows no sign of slowing. And the researchers say further research is urgently needed - and regulation of the environmental factors that may be contributing could be part of the solution.