Pesticides Cause Low Sperm Count
Thursday, February 23rd 2006
Pesticides and other man-made chemicals may lower male fertility for at least four generations, says new research.
When pregnant rats were exposed to fungicide sprayed on vineyards and pesticide sprayed on crops, the sperm counts of their male offspring was 20 per cent less than normal.
If confirmed by further experiments, the findings could help to explain the decline in human male fertility over the past 50 years.
The laboratory rats received high levels of vinclozolin, a fungicide widely used in vineyards, and methoxychlor, a pesticide used to replace DDT when it was banned more than 30 years ago.
Scientists found that not only did the male offspring of the exposed rats suffer a sharp decline in the quality and quantity of their sperm but that these traits were passed on to their male descendants.
Yet the researchers believe that the chemicals did not mutate the rat's genes - a proven way of passing on damaging traits - but instead may have altered the way the genes worked.
Michael Skinner of Washington State University, who led the research, said nearly all the male rats born in each generation were affected by sperm damage or low sperm counts.
He said that the findings, published in the journal Science, suggested toxins might play a role in heritable diseases that were previously thought to be caused solely by genetics mutations.
"It's a new way to think about disease. We believe this phenomenon will be widespread and be a major factor in understanding how disease develops," Dr Skinner said.
The rats were exposed to much higher levels of the chemicals than would be experienced even by agricultural workers handling the products every day. But the scientists believe it is possible that a similar effect may result from lower exposure.
Both of the chemicals are known to be toxic in high doses and each is thought able to interfere with reproductive hormones - a feature of toxins known as endocrine disrupters.
The scientists exposed pregnant rats to the chemicals at the crucial moment in gestation when the sex of the offspring is determined.
Male offspring suffered a 20 per cent decline in sperm counts, and sperm motility - its ability to swim - fell by up to 35 per cent.
What was surprising was that these traits were also seen in 90 per cent of the male offspring born to three later generations, yet the scientists found no obvious mutations in the DNA of the animals.
One possibility is that the toxic substances altered the natural chemicals, called methyl groups, that normally surround the DNA molecule and the male offspring inherited these subtle changes.
"We are mostly describing a new phenomenon," Dr Skinner said "The hazards of environmental toxins are much more pronounced than we realised."
Sourced from the New Zealand Herald, Wednesday 8 June 2005
Footnote from Ideal Health:
The following products are all useful for Men's Health:
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DIM Plus to assist in cancer prevention
Free radicals and antioxidants
Improve fertility levels and libido with Tribulus
Multivite - why taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement is so essential?
The Prostate Gland
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