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Human male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Oh no... Back in 2017 a large study found that male sperm counts had dropped over 50% since the 1970s in North America, Europe, and Australia. Declining every year, year after year, for over 40 years. This has serious implications for fertility - if sperm counts drop too low, it's very difficult to conceive a baby.

Now those same researchers have published data from 53 countries showing that the sperm count decline is also occurring in Asia, South America, and Africa. And that the decline in male sperm counts is actually accelerating in North America and Europe. Yikes!

Note that this is in men who weren't being screened for fertility problems issues. In other words, random healthy men. Some had already fathered a baby.

Globally, the decline was about 1.16% per year from 1973 to 2018 (resulting in a 52% decline). When the researchers reexamined the data and looked at many more studies, they realized that since 2000 the decline accelerated at 2.64% per year.

Average global sperm concentration was 49 million per milliliter of semen in 2018. The researcher Dr. Swan pointed out that when sperm count drops below roughly 45 million per milliliter, the ability to cause a pregnancy begins to plummet dramatically, and at 40 million and lower the chances of conception are very low without reproductive assistance (e.g., IVF).

Interestingly, sperm counts are not just a male fertility issue, but also an indicator of men's health. Low levels of sperm are associated with increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer, and a shorter lifespan. With a decline in sperm numbers there is also a decline in testosterone and male genital anomalies - thus a decline in male reproductive health.

Why is this happening? Several possibilities are probably contributing: mainly lifestyle and also all the chemicals and plastics in our lives (environmental chemical exposure). Endocrine disruptors, phthalates, pesticides! Yes, they are all around us - in the air, the water, consumer products, and our bodies.

Some examples: pesticides, flame retardants, stain and water resistant products. Plastics leach and outgas and we get them into us various ways (skin, inhale them, ingest them in our foods and water). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE SPERM COUNT AND HEALTH:

Lifestyle: Don't smoke. Don't drink or drink very little. Don't do drugs. Don't sit in hot tubs or saunas. Get exercise or physical activity. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts. Avoid canned foods, minimize fast food take-out. Eat as much organic as possible. Lose weight, if needed.

Chemical exposure: We can't totally avoid all the chemicals, but we can minimize our exposure. For starters, stop using non-stick cookware, avoid pesticides in the home and yard (look for nontoxic alternatives and view weeds as wildflowers), don't use dryer sheets, buy unscented products (and avoid fragrances). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

From Science Daily: Significant decline in sperm counts globally, including Latin America, Asia and Africa, follow-up study shows

An international team led by Professor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, with Prof. Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, along with researchers in Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Israel and the USA, published the first meta-analysis to demonstrate declining sperm counts among men from South and Central America, Asia and Africa. ...continue reading "Sperm Counts Are Still Dropping Throughout the World"

Pesticides causing health problems are appearing in study after study. A recent study found that higher glyphosate levels in pregnant women is associated with lower birthweight in the babies and higher risk of admission to neonatal intensive care units.

Studies find that almost all pregnant women have detectable levels of glyphosate in their bodies - which of course reaches the fetus. In this study by Univ. of Indiana researchers it was detected in 99% of the women during the first trimester! Higher levels resulted in reduced fetal growth. This is very concerning.

Glyphosate is found in the popular herbicide (weed-killer) Roundup. The use of glyphosate has increased substantially with genetically modified crops (e.g., Roundup resistant crops such as corn and soybeans) and with its preharvest use in conventionally raised crops (preharvest guide). It's found on many regular oats, wheat, soybeans, canola, lentils flax, etc.

This is why with each new study higher levels are found in people. It's in our food.

What else is glyphosate doing to us? It has been linked to a number of human health effects, such as cancer, endocrine (hormone) disruption, liver and kidney damage, preterm birth, and even having a negative effect on our gut microbiome - by killing off certain important species of gut microbes. There is much we still don't know about chronic exposure to low levels of the pesticide.

By the way, the United States FDA allows higher levels of glyphosate residues in food and humans than other countries, including European countries. Of course this is due to the pesticide industry lobbying the FDA real hard, political interference, and then think of all those cushy pesticide industry jobs government workers eventually get as a reward. (Yes, it's revolving door from the government to industry jobs...)

Organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate. So if you want to avoid the pesticide - eat as many organically grown foods as possible.

From Science Daily: High exposure to glyphosate in pregnancy could cause lower birth weights in babies

Indiana University School of Medicine researchers are learning more about the effects of herbicide exposure during pregnancy, finding glyphosate in 99 percent of the pregnant women they observed in the Midwest. In the study, published recently in Environmental Health, higher glyphosate levels were associated with lower birth weight and may also lead to higher neonatal intensive care unit admission risk. ...continue reading "Almost All Pregnant Women Have This Pesticide In Their Body"

It has been known for years that wearing your shoes indoors means that everything that is on the ground outdoors will be tracked into the home. Pesticides, heavy metals, lead, animal feces, and everything else out there.

Babies crawling around the floor (and also putting things into the mouth) get an extra heavy dose of "contaminants" that were tracked in. We all absorb contaminants through our skin, ingest (the mouth), or breathe them in.

All these contaminants become part of our indoor air quality. Our indoor air is not just the outside contaminants that made their way in, but there is also shedding of skin and cloth fibers from us and pets, as well as outgassing and breakdown (the dust) of whatever is in the home. We can't get rid of all contaminants, but we can really lower our exposure to them by not wearing our shoes indoors.

Bottom line: Take your shoes off at the door.

A nice discussion of this issue is in an article written by Professors M.P. Taylor and G. Filippelli earlier this year. Some excerpts from The Conversation: Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross. The verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?  ...continue reading "Leave Your Shoes At The Door"

Credit: Wikipedia

Another study with concerning results for children and pregnant women has been published. This time researchers found a commonly used fungicide in a majority of children and all pregnant women studied. Some children had chronic exposure. A small study, but still...

The fungicide is azoxystrobin, and is commonly used on crops (e.g., cereals, grapevines, potatoes, fruits, nuts, and vegetable crops), lawns, and in mildew and mold-resistant wallboard used in home construction. The fungicide migrates out of the wallboard (sheetrock) and is found in house dust. Thus, humans can have chronic exposure to it.

And yes, this fungicide has worrisome health effects in animal studies - for example, toxic to embryos, neurotoxicity, brain inflammation. Studies in pregnant mice found that the fungicide went from the mother to the developing babies by crossing the placenta and then entered the developing brain. Much is unknown and studies need to be done!

The problem is that in the USA chemicals are easily approved by the government for use, and it is up to consumers and researchers later to prove harm. But typically that is not enough to get any changes and the chemicals in question keep on being produced and used and causing harm.

What to do? Eat organically grown food. The fungicide is not allowed on organic crops. Don't use pesticides on your lawn. If renovating or constructing a home - avoid mold and mildew-resistant wallboard brands.

From Medical Xpress: Scientists detect common fungicide in pregnant women and children

For the first time, UNC-Chapel Hill researchers have measured the concentration of a biomarker of the commonly used fungicide azoxystrobin (AZ) in the urine of pregnant women and children ranging from 40–84 months of age. They also documented maternal transfer of AZ to mouse embryos and weaning-age mice.  ...continue reading "Commonly Used Fungicide Detected In Pregnant Women and Children"

Some depressing news for pregnant women - they are exposed to and contaminated with more harmful industrial chemicals than ever before.

Thousands of chemicals are used in numerous consumer products and in food production (on farms, and in packaging). Not only can we get exposed to industrial chemicals from foods and products, but also from contaminated water, air, and dust.

Researchers looked for the presence of 103 industrial chemicals in the urine of pregnant women across the Unites States. The chemicals included plastics, pesticides, parabens, PAHs, as well as some of the "replacement chemicals" for BPA and phthalates. They found that most women had some of the chemicals in their bodies. Some chemicals were found in almost or ALL of them, including 3 insecticides, 2 parabens, 10 phthalates, and 1 PAH. Yikes!

Keep in mind that replacement chemicals (e.g., BPS for BPA) can be the same or even worse to health than the original chemicals.

Also, the researchers did NOT look for the presence of some commonly used chemicals (and which are linked to health harms) such as 2,4-D, pyrethroids, chlorpyrifos, and glyphosate. These are pesticides commonly used on (non-organic) farms, but also in our homes and yards. Other studies find the amounts of these pesticides are increasing in humans over the last 2 decades, and that some of these pesticides can be detected in the majority of humans.

Pregnancy is an especially important time in the life of the developing baby, and many chemicals are much more harmful then than at any other time in life. Chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed to cross the placenta - thus getting to the fetus. So it is really important to lower the amount and number of chemicals that a pregnant woman is exposed to.

How to lower your exposure to harmful chemicals: [From list of quick tips]

1) Eat as many organic foods as possible.

2) Avoid using pesticides in your home and garden, and instead look for nontoxic, organic, or least toxic IPM (Integrated Pest Management) solutions.

3) Read labels to avoid phthalates, parabens, "antimicrobial", anti-odor in personal care items.

4) Don't use dryer sheets (not needed!) or detergents or other products with fragrances.  [ Complete list of quick tips.]

Two good, but different write-ups of the research: 1) From Medical Xpress: Study of pregnant women finds increasing exposure to chemicals from plastics and pesticides

A national study that enrolled a highly diverse group of pregnant women over 12 years found rising exposure to chemicals from plastics and pesticides that may be harmful to development. ...continue reading "Pregnant Women Are Exposed To More Chemicals and Pesticides"

We all get exposed to pesticides to varying degrees - whether from our water, foods we eat, inhaling them, or absorbing them through our skin (e.g., walking or playing on pesticide treated lawns). Unfortunately, studies show our exposure to the pesticide glyphosate (found in Roundup) is increasing each year.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) does biomonitoring of persons in the US to see what chemicals we are being exposed to by measuring levels in the blood and urine of both adults and children. They recently released the finding that about 80% of us have glyphosate residues. Even worse, about 87 percent of the 650 children they tested had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (it kills vegetation) in the US and the world. Nearly 300 million pounds of the pesticide are applied each year in the United States, with greater than 88.6 pounds per square mile in the US midwest (according to the USGS). Glyphosate residues have been found in all sorts of foods, honey and grain cereals.

What is it doing to us? It has been linked to a number of human health effects, such as cancer, endocrine (hormone) disruption, liver and kidney damage, preterm birth, and even having a negative effect on our gut microbiome - by killing off certain important species of gut microbes. There is much we still don't know about chronic exposure to low levels of the pesticide.

A 2017 study following adults over the age of 50 from 1993 to 2016, residing in Southern California, found that the percentage of adults with glyphosate residues in urine went from 12% to 70% during that time. And now the CDC reports an even higher rate. Much of this increase is due to genetically modified crops (crops that are Roundup resistant) and also to the increase in "preharvest" applications on regular crops.

What can you do? Eat as much organically grown food as possible. This is because organic farmers are NOT allowed to use glyphosate. And don't use Roundup or other glyphosate products on your property.

What EWG (Environmental Working Group) has to say about glyphosate: CDC finds toxic weedkiller in 87 percent of children tested

From Medical Xpress: Weed killer glyphosate found in most Americans' urine

More than 80% of Americans have a widely used herbicide lurking in their urine, a new government study suggests. ...continue reading "CDC Finds The Pesticide Glyphosate In Most Children"

Weed and feed product (with 2,4-D)

The results of a recently published large study are depressing, but not surprising. The pesticide 2,4-D, which was originally used in Agent Orange, is still around decades later and found everywhere you look - including in us.

In the past decade there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of both agricultural and residential use of 2,4-D in the US. The herbicide (a type of pesticide) is used to kill unwanted vegetation, including weeds. In 2020 alone, 33.3 million pounds of 2,4-D were used for agricultural purposes in the US! This number is projected to rise more each year, especially because it's used on genetically modified crops.

The study (with 14,395 participants) found that in 2011-2012, 40% of persons had 2,4-D in their urine. This was a massive increase from the start of the study in 2001 (17.1%). It is expected to have increased since then. Other studies find that current levels of pesticide residues (including additional pesticides) are in over 90% of all Americans, including pregnant women.

Children (aged 6 to 11 years) had the highest 2,4-D concentrations, and below that women of childbearing age. Interestingly, one difference they found was that non-Hispanic white persons had higher levels of 2,4-D in the blood than black persons.

The researchers thought that this might be because so much is used on lawns and green spaces in white suburban areas (think of those "perfect manicured lawns"). High-income persons had higher levels (manicured lawns!) than lower income persons. Agricultural workers also had higher levels of 2,4-D.

Health effects from 2,4-D: They include an increase in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pediatric leukemia, birth defects (e.g., hypospadias in boys), allergic wheeze, hypothyroidism, chloracne, abnormal sperm, reduced fertility, soft tissue sarcoma, and olfactory deficits. It is an endocrine disruptor.

How do we get exposed to 2,4-D? Food and water frequently have 2,4-D residues. It can be in dust, in the air (from drift when applied nearby), rain, and even on our pets (when they go on treated lawns). We can inhale it, ingest it (from food and water), and absorb it through our skin and eyes. It is in most household carpet dust samples (it gets tracked inside).

What to do? Some simple steps:

  1. Avoid using any pesticides, including weed and feed products on lawns! Lawns do NOT need pesticides to be healthy!
  2. Stay off pesticide treated lawns, especially in the first 3 days and before a rainfall.
  3. Take shoes off at the door to avoid tracking in 2,4-D (and other pesticides, heavy metals).
  4. Eat organic food, as much as possible. [2,4-D is not allowed to be used in organic farms.]
2,4-D product near refrigerated foods

2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) is commonly added to weed and feed products, and used by both ordinary consumers and lawn care services. Incredibly, big box stores such as Costco sell big bags of these 2,4-D products - even next to food! This makes consumers think it's safe. But it's not.

From Science Daily: One out of three people exposed to potentially harmful pesticide

One out of three people in a large survey showed signs of exposure to a pesticide called 2,4-D, according to a study published today by researchers at the George Washington University. This novel research found that human exposure to this chemical has been rising as agricultural use of the chemical has increased, a finding that raises worries about possible health implications.  ...continue reading "Commonly Used Pesticide Is Found In Many People"

Whether one eats organic foods or non-organic foods does make  difference, even when eating a healthy Mediterranean style diet. A recent study found a difference is in the amount of pesticides ingested, with much less in the organic diet. Which makes sense.

A Mediterranean style diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes - thus lots of produce and fiber, much more than in a Western style diet. However, the study found that just 2 weeks of a Mediterranean diet with either organic foods or non-organic (conventional) foods made a huge difference in the amount of pesticides ingested. They measured this by looking at pesticide residues excreted in the urine.

In persons eating an all organic Mediterranean style diet 91% lower pesticide residues were excreted in the urine when compared to those eating a non-organic Mediterranean style diet! The study also showed that pesticide exposure actually increased in 1 group (the non-organic Mediterranean diet group) when compared to their normal non-organic (conventional) Western diet.

Participants (British postgraduate students, all adults) in a small study ate their normal Western diet (e.g., hamburgers, french fries) both before and after a 2 week period in which they ate a Mediterranean style diet (e.g., Greek salad, sweet and sour chicken, vegetables, and whole grain rice). During the Mediterranean style diet phase (the middle 2 weeks) all foods eaten by one group (13 persons) were organic, and in the second group (14 persons) they were all non-organic (conventional).

Other studies have also found similar findings (organic foods lowers pesticide levels in body), and lower incidence of cancer in those eating organic foods.

Bottom line: Yes, a Mediterranean style diet (whether non-organic or organic) is still considered healthiest for us all sorts of ways, including our gut microbiome. But.. try to eat as many organic foods as possible to lower exposure to all sorts of pesticides.

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides: Unless You Go Organic, Switching to ‘Healthier’ Mediterranean Diet Increases Pesticide Exposure Three-fold

Replacing a modern, ‘western’ diet of highly processed foods with a Mediterranean diet filled with conventional, chemically-grown fruits and vegetables triples exposure to toxic pesticides, according to research recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, this disturbing change can be eliminated by eating a Mediterranean diet consisting entirely of organic food, which is not sprayed with synthetic pesticides.  ...continue reading "Pesticides and the Mediterranean Style Diet"

The incredibly high use of pesticides in this country, especially when routinely applied to crops, lawns, and residence interiors, is worrisome. Over 1 billion pounds used in the US annually! Not only are there all sorts of environmental effects, including contamination of water, air, soil, but pesticides also have health effects on humans and wildlife. It seems that with each new study, more concerns are raised.

A recent large study found a link with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and exposure to pesticides. The Dartmouth College researchers found the link with about two dozen neurotoxic pesticides, including 2,4-D, chlorpyrifos, glyphosate, permethrin, MCPB, carbaryl, and paraquat.

Note that 2,4-D is a herbicide (weed-killer) that is used in crops, and also in feed and weed products for lawns. Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide in the world, and used extensively on crops in the US.

The study has limitations, but it should definitely get people investigating this possibility more. For a while now, pesticide exposure has been hypothesized to be a risk factor for ALS. This is a progressive and fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: Higher estimated pesticide exposures linked to ALS risk

Every year, approximately 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.  ...continue reading "Pesticides and Lou Gehrig’s Disease"

Another recent study found an association with pesticide exposure (both herbicides and insecticides) and leukemia risk in infants and children. The study found that exposure prenatally or during childhood to pesticides increases the risk for leukemia. (Keep in mind that cancer in childhood is rare, but it does occur.)

Researchers at the School of Medicine (in Greece) did a review and analysis of 52 studies and found that preconception exposure to pesticides by either the father and mother can increase the risk, also childhood exposure. But the biggest risk was a mother's exposure during pregnancy, and this was linked to both infant and childhood leukemia. (Yes,  the developing baby is also exposed when the mother is exposed during pregnancy)

What to do? If thinking about conceiving a child, already pregnant, or have children - try to eliminate as much exposure to pesticides as possible. Many of us have chronic exposures to low levels of pesticides - whether in our homes, yards, workplaces, and food. So this is important.

This means avoiding pesticide treatments or flea collars in pet dogs, not routinely applying pesticides in residences or outdoors, which includes outdoor weed + feed  or mosquito treatments (toxic pesticides!). Eat organic as much as possible. Use least toxic integrated Pest Management (IPM) if need to deal with a pest problem. (Beyond Pesticides is a good resource site for pesticide information, organic approaches, and IPM)

From Beyond Pesticides (they frequently write about pesticide studies): In Utero and Childhood Pesticide Exposure Increases Childhouse  Cancer Risk

A study published in Environmental Pollution finds the risk of acute childhood leukemia (AL) increases with prenatal and newborn exposure to pesticides (i.e., insecticides and herbicides). The study results support the hypothesis that chronic environmental pesticide exposure increases childhood leukemia risk up to two times. Maternal exposure has a stronger association with leukemia than childhood exposure. Insecticides and herbicides are of particular significance in increasing leukemia risk, especially for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. ...continue reading "Pesticide Exposure and Increased Leukemia Risk In Children"