Threats to Male Fertility: Pesticides

Threats to Male Fertility: Pesticides

farmer spraying pesticide in the rice fieldIf you have read our previous blogs, you know that some plastic chemicals and recreational drugs are threats to male fertility. These gonadotoxins either directly affect the testes or affect the hormones that produce sperm. Chemicals in pesticides have been shown to impact male fertility, though recent articles have suggested more research needs to be done in this area.

Effects of Pesticides

Since the early 2000s, the majority of studies linking male infertility to pesticides have reported that pesticide exposure leads to poor sperm quality and reduced sperm concentrations.1 Clear effects on sperm quality, for example, have been demonstrated for dibromochloropropane (DBCP) and ethylene dibromide, the active ingredients in some agricultural fumigants.2 Not all pesticides are so clear-cut, though. One article in particular notes that many of these studies are inconsistent, citing problems with sample populations, pesticide exposure, and study design.1

Research published as recently as 2011, however, strengthens the connection between pesticides and infertility. Scientists at the University of London tested 34 widely-used pesticides with high exposures through diet and found that 23 of them reduced fertility. The researchers recommend additional testing, but the study again points to the negative effect of pesticide exposure on fertility.3

Treatment

In many cases, gonadotoxic effects are reversible once exposure to the pesticide is eliminated, but because there are hundreds of pesticides, it can be difficult and even impossible to know exactly which one may be impacting your fertility. Still, there are some measures you can take to reduce exposure:

  • Thoroughly wash produce before eating, as many pesticides and fungicides used on agricultural crops contain gonadotoxins.
  • Limit exposure to wood preservatives and industrial chemical applications, if possible.

If you think pesticides might be the reason for your infertility, you should talk to your doctor about possible treatments.

References

  1. Roeleveld, N., & Bretveld, R. (2008, June). The impact of pesticides on male fertility. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, 20(3), 229–33. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18460936
  2. Bretveld, R., Brouwers, M., Ebisch, I., & Roeleveld, N. (2007, February). Influence of pesticides on male fertility. Scand J Work Environ Health, 33(1), 13–28. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17353961
  3. Tal, T. (2011, May 17). Widely used but just tested pesticides may contribute to infertility. Environmental Health News. Retrieved from http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/test-show-current-pesticides-block-androgen-receptor-actions/
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