Reproductive Health

A new study confirms a huge drop in men’s sperm levels. Here are all the facts

If this trend continues, most men will be infertile by 2060.

Sperm count in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand declined by 50-60% between 1973 and 2011, according to a new study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Surprisingly, the study, which analysed data on the sperm counts of 42,935 men, found no decline in sperm counts in men from Asia, Africa and South America, although there was limited data from these areas.

Overall, this is a very disturbing report. There has been a longstanding debate among scientists as to whether sperm counts have decreased or not. But what’s different about this study is the quality of the analysis. It was done in a systematic manner, accounting for several of the problems that had affected previous studies, such as the method used to count sperm and comparing studies performed sometimes decades apart. As such, most experts agree that the data presented is of a high quality and that the conclusions, although alarming, are reliable.

So what is going on? There has been concern for a number of years about an increase in abnormalities in male reproductive health, such as testicular cancer. The decline in sperm counts is consistent with these increases and this adds weight to the concept that male reproductive health is under attack and is declining rapidly.

In fact, if the data on sperm counts is extrapolated to its logical conclusion, men will have little or no reproductive capacity from 2060 onwards. The most rational explanation for the decline in male reproductive health is the changes in the environment. Current research suggests that the male foetus is particularly susceptible to exposure to pollutants and so changes that occur early in foetal life can have a very significant effect on the adult.

What can be done?

The simple answer is that we need much more research to find out why this decline in sperm count is happening. We cannot be complacent about the potential negative effect on fertility and must now urgently rally to substantially increase the research effort into male reproductive health.

Also, although the prevailing evidence shows a decline in reproductive health, not all studies show this; there are some geographical differences. It will be critical to determine what the key differences between geographical regions are – such as genetic differences and exposure to specific pollutants – so we can then examine treatment strategies to limit these negative effects.

If it’s the foetus that is mainly affected, what can the adult man do? Even in adults, exposure to chemicals, such as bisphenol A, which are thought to affect fertility, can have a negative effect, so men should limit their exposure to toxic chemicals. This includes stopping cigarette smoking. Also, a healthy lifestyle is very important as there is a known link between obesity and reduced sperm count.

Chris Barratt, Professor of Reproductive Medicine, University of Dundee.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Virat Kohli and Ola come together to improve Delhi's air quality

The onus of curbing air-pollution is on citizens as well

A recent study by The Lancet Journal revealed that outdoor pollution was responsible for 6% of the total disease burden in India in 2016. As a thick smog hangs low over Delhi, leaving its residents gasping for air, the pressure is on the government to implement SOS measures to curb the issue as well as introduce long-term measures to improve the air quality of the state. Other major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata should also acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.

The urgency of the air-pollution crisis in the country’s capital is being reflected on social media as well. A recent tweet by Virat Kohli, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, urged his fans to do their bit in helping the city fight pollution. Along with the tweet, Kohli shared a video in which he emphasized that curbing pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Apart from advocating collective effort, Virat Kohli’s tweet also urged people to use buses, metros and Ola share to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility, ride sharing app Ola responded with the following tweet.

To demonstrate its commitment to fight the problem of vehicular pollution and congestion, Ola is launching #ShareWednesdays : For every ​new user who switches to #OlaShare in Delhi, their ride will be free. The offer by Ola that encourages people to share resources serves as an example of mobility solutions that can reduce the damage done by vehicular pollution. This is the fourth leg of Ola’s year-long campaign, #FarakPadtaHai, to raise awareness for congestion and pollution issues and encourage the uptake of shared mobility.

In 2016, WHO disclosed 10 Indian cities that made it on the list of worlds’ most polluted. The situation necessitates us to draw from experiences and best practices around the world to keep a check on air-pollution. For instance, a system of congestion fees which drivers have to pay when entering central urban areas was introduced in Singapore, Oslo and London and has been effective in reducing vehicular-pollution. The concept of “high occupancy vehicle” or car-pool lane, implemented extensively across the US, functions on the principle of moving more people in fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion. The use of public transport to reduce air-pollution is another widely accepted solution resulting in fewer vehicles on the road. Many communities across the world are embracing a culture of sustainable transportation by investing in bike lanes and maintenance of public transport. Even large corporations are doing their bit to reduce vehicular pollution. For instance, as a participant of the Voluntary Traffic Demand Management project in Beijing, Lenovo encourages its employees to adopt green commuting like biking, carpooling or even working from home. 18 companies in Sao Paulo executed a pilot program aimed at reducing congestion by helping people explore options such as staggering their hours, telecommuting or carpooling. After the pilot, drive-alone rates dropped from 45-51% to 27-35%.

It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that the growth of a country doesn’t compromise the natural environment that sustains it, however, a substantial amount of responsibility also lies on each citizen to lead an environment-friendly lifestyle. Simple lifestyle changes such as being cautious about usage of electricity, using public transport, or choosing locally sourced food can help reduce your carbon footprint, the collective impact of which is great for the environment.

Ola is committed to reducing the impact of vehicular pollution on the environment by enabling and encouraging shared rides and greener mobility. They have also created flat fare zones across Delhi-NCR on Ola Share to make more environment friendly shared rides also more pocket-friendly. To ensure a larger impact, the company also took up initiatives with City Traffic Police departments, colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations.

Join the fight against air-pollution by using the hashtag #FarakPadtaHai and download Ola to share your next ride.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Ola and not by the Scroll editorial team.