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How everyday chemicals reduce our fertility

How everyday chemicals reduce our fertility


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Study: Sperm quality drops increasingly due to everyday chemicals

Hidden in food, plastic, textiles and cosmetics could be the cause of increasing fertility problems, which are affecting couples in the western world more and more. A German-Danish team of researchers recently found that certain chemicals that are used every day affect our hormones and are therefore responsible for the generally reduced fertility. In particular, the combination of several chemicals is particularly defective because the individual effects not only add up but also reinforce each other.

Chemicals are used almost everywhere in the production of food, clothing and care products. So-called endocrine disruptors are often used. Researchers at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Andrology (CeRA) at the University of Münster identified a fertility-reducing “cocktail effect” that is caused by everyday chemicals. This effect is triggered by certain chemicals that mimic the effects of female hormones and thus impair the swimming behavior of sperm. The study results were recently published in the journal "human reproduction".

Chemicals affect the sperm

As the researchers report, we ingest the smallest amounts of certain chemicals every day. Among them is a group called endocrine disruptors. According to the researchers, these chemicals can affect sperm at a very low concentration. Endocrine disruptors have long been suspected of negatively affecting reproductive ability. The team around Professor Timo Strünker and Professor Niels Erik Skakkebæk has now been able to decode this effect more precisely.

The cocktail effect of everyday chemicals

"If you combine the chemicals, the individual effects not only add up, but they mutually reinforce each other considerably," summarizes study leader Dr. Christoph Brenker the results in a press release. In pharmacology, this phenomenon is called "synergism".

One plus one equals three

“One plus one doesn't make two, but three,” the researchers explain. This effect would be particularly evident in sperm. The interaction, i.e. the synergy of the various endocrine disruptors, would perfectly imitate female hormones and thus influence the sperm, explains Brenker. Among other things, the buoyancy of the sperm would be disturbed.

Controversial debate over everyday chemicals

As early as 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) drew attention to the harmful effects of endocrine disruptors. In addition to the negative impact on fertility, the chemicals are also suspected of causing cancer. Nevertheless, they are still used in countless products. There is regular controversy among experts and in public about whether the use of hormonally effective chemicals in everyday products should be restricted.

Individual limits ignore the interactions

So far there are only limit values ​​for each individual chemical. In view of the new findings that the individual components mutually reinforce each other, the potential risk is underestimated in the researchers' opinion. The team around Dr. Brenker was able to observe this synergistic cocktail effect not only in sperm, but also in cells and tissues. The health consequences that result from this are uncertain. (vb)

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