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Scientists Warn of Sperm Count Declines Linked to Pesticide Exposure

Scientists Warn of Sperm Count Declines Linked to Pesticide Exposure

Beyond Pesticides

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

In a literature review published in Toxicology last week, researchers found that environmental and occupational pesticide exposure was strongly associated with declines in sperm count. Researchers Sheena Martenies, BS, and Melissa Perry, ScD., MHS., determined that of the 17 studies evaluated, 15 of them reported significant associations between pesticides and semen quality.

The researchers counted semen quality according to concentration of sperm over an area, their motility and ability to move, as well as their shapes. Researchers targeted studies on DDT, HCH and abamectin, grouping pyrethroids and organophosphates by class. What they found was striking: almost all the studies reported a decrease in sperm concentration; decreased motility was also reported though less frequently; while morphological changes were not strongly associated in studies—only two indicated any changes to sperm shape. These findings build on a growing body of evidence that pesticide exposure at environmental or occupational levels diminished sperm health.

In addition to the U.S. findings, studies conducted on French, New Zealander, Indian, Tunisian, and Israeli men have all found decline in sperm count. Some studies record a drop by approximately 50 percent between 1940 and 1990, no small amount.

These results might not be surprising as sperm production is regulated by the endocrine system, a highly sensitive system of hormone regulators. A study on Mexican workers in the floral industry, where workers are routinely exposed to organophosphate, finds that workers not only have increased levels of testosterone, but also suppressed levels of follicle stimulating hormone and inhibin b, which are two sensitive markers for sperm production.

The study highlights the importance of generating strong pesticide regulations that incorporate endocrine disruptors for worker protection from pesticide exposure. In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with evaluating pesticides for endocrine disruption under the Food Quality Protection Act. While the U.S. EPA has completed Tier 1 evaluations for 79 chemicals, it is unclear how its methodology is taking into account low-dose responses that deviate from traditional dose-response curves. With endocrine disruptors, it is only low levels of exposure that is required to severely threaten human and animal reproductive and hormonal functioning.

To learn more and contribute to our cause against the use of pesticides, join us in April 5-6, in Albuquerque, NM for Beyond Pesticides’ 31st annual National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Families, Farms and Food. With top national scientists, local and national activists, and concerned citizens as we share information on the issues local communities face, craft solutions and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Discussions on the impact that pesticides and other endocrine disrupting chemicals have on human and environmental health would be led by renowned scientists and medical professionals like Tyrone Haynes, PhD, Lynn Carroll, PhD, Joel Forman, M.D., Issac Pessah, PhD and others.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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