Sperm can be affected by products such as shaving cream and lotions, according to a preliminary report on male fertility. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are conducting a larger study on the kind of impact that items like personal grooming products and shower curtains have on the quality of sperm.
The study’s focus is on how testosterone levels and sperm quality are affected by compounds known as phthalates. Researchers looked at immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing in vitro fertilisation and found that there was “a pronounced decrease in blastocyst quality” at an early stage in embryo development in sperm from men who were exposed to phthalates. The blastocyst is a structure formed in early development and contains a cell mass that subsequently forms the embryo.
“Phthalates are compounds found in plastics and personal care products, such as lotion and shaving cream, that are estimated to be detectable in nearly 100 percent of the US population,” state the study, which was published in Oxford University Press journal Human Reproduction.
“Overall, results support the growing evidence that preconception paternal environmental health may contribute to reproductive potential,” the study found.
There is still a stigma attached to male infertility, a 2015 global study on the subject found. According to the subsequent report, about 48,5 million couples around the world experience infertility, and men contribute to an estimated 20% to 30% of issues. The report found that, because of dominant patriarchal norms, the burden of fertility often falls on women.
The findings of this recent study on the environmental effects on sperm could help shed some light on the role that men play in infertility.