A study carried out in France has shown that the number and quality of sperm has decreased dramatically in the last two decades.
- 26,600 men found sperm concentration has decreased by a third since the 1990s
- 32.2pc decrease in sperm concentration over 17 years
- Numbers of sperm per millilitre of semen fell at about two per cent a year between 1989 and 2005
- 35-year-old man would see his sperm count reduced from around 73.6 million per millilitre of semen to 49.9 million
Experts have said something must be done now to stop major fertility problems in the future which would result in the average sized family decreasing.
Dr Joelle Le Moal, one of the researchers from the Institut de Veille Sanitaire in Saint Maurice, said: ”The decline in semen concentration shown in our study means that the average values we have for 2005 fall within the ‘fertile’ range for men according the definition of the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, this is just an average, and there were men in the study who fell beneath the WHO values. The 2005 values are lower than the 55 million per millilitre threshold, below which sperm concentration is expected to influence the time it takes to conceive.”
There is a suggestion that environmental factors might be the cause, for instance endocrine disrupters which upset the hormone balances in the body.
Dr Le Moal said: ”Impairments in the quality of human gametes (male sperm and female eggs) can be considered as critical biomarkers of effects for environmental stresses, including endocrine disrupters. Firstly, this is because gametes are the very first cells from which human beings are built up during their lifetimes. According to the theories about the developmental origins of health and diseases, early exposures may have an impact on adult health.”
University of Edinburgh’s Professor Richard Sharpe said: ”The take-home message from the study is extremely simple – sperm number and sperm quality has declined progressively over the study period.”
Sharpe went on to say that ”In the UK this issue has never been viewed as any sort of health priority, perhaps because of doubts as to whether ‘falling sperm counts’ was real. Now, there can be little doubt that it is real, so it is a time for action. Doing nothing will ensure that couple fertility and average family size will decline below even its present low level and place ever greater strains on society.”