Guys, considering having children? New research shows you might want to avoid endocrine disruptors lest you alter the swimming, navigational and fertilization capacity of your sperm. Yes, endocrine disruptors, those synthetic chemicals that enhance or reduce endogenous hormones and are found in sunscreens, soaps, plastics, herbicides, pesticides, human and animal antibacterials, can render your sperm incapable of fertilization by some pretty striking mechanisms.
Why Hormones Are Important
Hormones control every aspect of human life from the most basic sexual function and reproduction, through metabolism and even brain function, so disrupting the natural balance of hormones can, and often does, have serious consequences on human health. In recent years, researchers have begun to untangle those effects. Almost to a tee, the studies run by independent scientist, show a myriad of negative effects linked to hormone disrupting chemicals. The study published just this month: Direct action of endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm is no different, except that the researchers not only identified the direct mechanism by which these chemicals affect sperm, but also, how a combination of exposures magnifies the deleterious response.
Endocrine Disruptors and Sperm Competence
The process of fertilization is a remarkably complex act. After ejaculation, sperm must swim upstream, against a pressurized force, against a chemical gradient to reach and then penetrate the oocyte or egg. Before reaching the egg, the sperm has to shed part of its native endocrine structure (acrosomal exocytosis) in order to successfully withstand penetration. The navigation, motility, and penetration are mediated by complex and perfectly timed set of chemical reactions between endogenous hormones secreted from the female and the activity of a calcium (Ca2+) channel called CatSper in the sperm. Sperm from animals lacking the CatSper gene are infertile because they cannot respond appropriately to the hormones released by the female. Many endocrine disruptors inappropriately activate the CatSper Ca2+ channel by mimicking those female hormones (progesterone and prostaglandins), thus impairing the sperm’s ability to reach its destination and perform the task at hand.
The present study found that physiological concentrations of many endocrine disrupting chemicals, concentrations the average person is expected to be exposed to and designated as safe, were deleterious to sperm competence. The chemicals in sunscreens that provide the UV-filters, the precursors for surfactants in soaps and commercial resins, growth hormones in livestock, insecticides, antibacterial and antifungal preservatives in foods and personal products such as soap, toothpastes, incorrectly activated the CatSper Ca2+ channel rendering the sperm incompetent. Most interesting, the researchers found that combination exposures increased the endocrine disrupting capacity of these chemicals. Since these chemicals are pervasive in modern life, it is reasonable to suggest that almost all exposures to endocrine disruptors happen in combination rather than in isolation. The potential to magnify the negative affects on health is likely greater than fully understood, particularly when considering there are at least 1000 of these chemicals on the market today, used in common, everyday products.
Improve Fertility: Remove Exposures to Endocrine Disruptors
If you and your partner are having problems conceiving consider eliminating exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Research done with female infertility shows that women are equally susceptible to these hormone disruptors. Bisphenol A or BPA in plastics has been linked to egg maturation errors. If couples are lucky enough to conceive, fetal development continues to be susceptible to maternal exposures to endocrine disruptors and can wreak havoc on the health the children and grandchildren.