Sunscreen, cosmetics and frying pans are all items that we use on an everyday basis.
But could they secretly be reducing fertility among men?
That’s what Niels Jorgensen, a Danish researcher, recently asserted after studying more than 70 years’ worth of male fertility data.
These products all have one thing in common: high levels of phthalates, chemicals found in everything from car dashboards to shower curtains. Thanks to the stunning amount of chemicals to which we are exposed on a daily basis, just one in four men has good-quality sperm ideal for reproducing, Jorgensen said at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology’s conference in Lisbon last month.
These phthalates “can be breathed in, consumed or absorbed through the skin of pregnant women, inhibiting testosterone production in male fetuses, leading to sons with low sperm counts,” Jorgensen said.
It’s not surprising, then, that the average couple between the ages of 29 to 33 with normally-functioning reproductive systems will ultimately only have a 20-25% chance of successfully conceiving. Although infertility is typically thought to be a female problem, Jorgensen’s findings show that the man can be just as likely to have fertility troubles as his partner.
And when more women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to have children — by which time their own fertility is waning — having a partner with a low sperm count can exacerbate the problem.
However, according to those in the cosmetics industry, it’s never advisable for one to skip out on sunscreen for the sake of improving one’s chances at conception. Dr. Chris Flower, an official from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, called Jorgensen’s advice regarding sunscreen “outrageous,” the New Zealand Herald reported.
“We know the risks of sun damage, and to suggest that not using sun protection products is a good idea is a terrible thing to do,” he said. “To frighten pregnant women about non-existent dangers of cosmetics is equally irresponsible.”