Do everyday chemicals lower sperm counts?

You’ve probably heard speculation about whether radiation from cell phones and laptops is lowering sperm count, making men infertile.

While the jury is still out on that one, what you might not have heard is that scientists are discovering that chemicals used in everyday products may contribute to reduced male fertility. Years of research have unveiled a number of chemicals linked to infertility in men.

Epidemiological and laboratory studies have associated certain chemicals with male infertility, including BPA, certain phthalates, nonylphenol, and the flame retardants tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP), triphenyl phosphate (TPP), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). These chemicals can be found in everything from furniture to laundry detergent to cash register receipts.

Studies on some of these chemicals reveal that they affect hormonal systems in ways that may lead to reduced sperm count, motility, or quality; result in undescended testicles and deformities of the penis; and contribute to testicular cancer. Other research has shown that such chemicals can cause “feminization” of fish.

A broken law to blame

The problem lies in the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. Enacted in 1976, this law grandfathered in more than 60,000 existing chemicals without requiring any assessment of their potential health effects. There are now 85,000 chemicals available for use, and new chemicals continue to enter the marketplace without any requirement for basic health and safety data. Of these 85,000 chemicals, the EPA has only been able to require adequate testing of a few hundred.

We’re putting ourselves and future generations at risk by not requiring chemicals to be properly assessed for safety. How can we stand by and allow potentially unsafe chemicals into to enter or remain in everyday products without requiring they be shown to be safe?