Low male fertility caused by sunscreen, everyday plastics – scientist

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Low fertility rates have been blamed on everything from laptops to cycling – but a scientist now claims that other common items are also diminishing men's chances of fatherhood. From sunscreen to frying pans, he says men aren't as safe as they thought.

According to Danish researcher Niels Jorgensen, certain chemicals are responsible for low fertility rates – and those chemicals are found all around us.

“Modern life is having an impact because we are exposed to so many chemicals and we don’t know what they do,” said Jorgensen, a consultant at the Department of Growth and Reproduction at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, as quoted by The Times.

Jorgensen's remarks follow the scientist's 15-year study of almost 5,000 Danish men, with an average age of 19.

He found that only 25 percent had “really good semen quality – that is shape and concentration of sperm."

Meanwhile, about 15 percent had very poor quality of sperm. “You would predict they would need some kind of fertility treatment to become fathers,” he said. A further 27 percent could expect a prolonged wait to father children.

READ MORE: Hazardous chemicals found in nearly 75% of child car seats – study

Jorgensen made his remarks at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s annual conference in Lisbon this week.

The chemicals of concern are known as phthalates, and they're found in everything from shower curtains to car dashboards and cleaning materials – products that most men come into contact with on a daily basis.

Jorgensen also believes PFCs are “extremely harmful.” These are found in everyday items such as non-stick pans and waterproof jackets.

While throwing away a particular coat or upgrading to a different frying pan may not seem too drastic, Jorgensen did have a more controversial suggestion – abandoning the use of sunscreen.

“We are advised to protect ourselves with these sunblocks but it seems when you go to the laboratory and test some of these chemicals they can interfere with the sperm function,” Jorgensen said.

“If I was to advise my own family, I would say don’t use it,” he added.

But it's not just grown men that are at risk from the allegedly dangerous substances – unborn boys are thought to be particularly in danger.

This has led Jorgensen to also advise against the use of sunscreen and make-up for pregnant women, as those substances could negatively impact the future sperm production of male fetuses.

READ MORE: Males, females conceived evenly, but females have higher mortality rate during pregnancy

But Jorgensen's suggestion of ditching sunscreen has been criticized by Dr. Chris Flower of the UK's Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association – an organization that lobbies for companies involved in the making, supplying, and selling of cosmetic and personal care products.

"We can state categorically that cosmetic products are required by strict European laws to be safe. Not to wear sun screen is an outrageous piece of advice because we know the risks of sun damage, and to suggest that not using sun protection products is a good idea is a terrible thing to do,” he said.