Based on a new study, researchers are claiming that sperm counts in men from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have dropped by half over the last 40 years. Even more troubling is the fact that these same researchers say that the downward trend isn't ending anytime soon.
Researchers from the United States, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, and Spain convened to conduct a meta-analysis of around 200 studies on male sperm counts from multiple countries conducted between 1973 and 2011. The study found a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent drop in total sperm count among men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Researchers found no such change in men from South America, Asia, and Africa, but noted there is a much smaller sample size of sperm count studies for men in these countries.
While some in the scientific community are skeptical of the findings, one of the lead researchers of the project, Dr. Hagai Levine, said, "This study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count."
Hagai co-led the study at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem.
The study didn't explore the reasoning behind the decrease, but previous studies have claimed factors such as exposure to certain pesticides and chemicals have an effect on sperm counts. Other contributors include poor diet, high alcohol and caffeine intake, and smoking.
Experts in the field have stressed the urgency of addressing this issue. Daniel Brison, an embryology and stem cell biology specialist at Britain's Manchester University, said the study's results have "major implications not just for fertility, but for male health and wider public health."
Richard Sharpe at Edinburgh University concurred, saying, "Given that we still do not know what lifestyle, dietary, or chemical exposures might have caused this decrease, research efforts to identify (them) need to be redoubled and to be non-resumptive as to cause."
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