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Pollution, Laziness Drive Down Sperm Counts… If That Matters

Author Richard Reeves was on NPR last week expressing concern that modern males need support dealing with with changes in men’s social roles. Most of what I heard from Reeves about “male malaise” seemed fixable by men abandoning obsolete macho malarkey, getting off their lazy keesters, and doing the work of the modern world.

But maybe we should arouse some concern about male issues:

A new international study demonstrated that sperm counts among people with testes from South and Central America, Asia and Africa had been drastically dipping at unprecedented levels. This builds upon 2017 research that had already shown similar results among North American, European and Australian residents.

This is a reason for alarm because a lowered sperm count doesn’t just affect the patient’s reproductive prowess, but also points to an increased risk of testicular cancer, decreased lifespan and chronic disease. In just the past 46 years, sperm counts have fallen by over 50% worldwide.

Hagai Levine, the study’s lead author, cautions that time is running out. “Our findings serve as a canary in a coal mine. We have a serious problem on our hands that, if not mitigated, could threaten humankind’s survival,” he explains [link added; “Declining Global Sperm Count Could ‘Threaten Mankind’s Survival’; Meta-Study Reveals Worrying Results,”, 2022.11.16].

But the solution to oligospermia isn’t re-electing some blowhard oligarch who runs on the slogan Make America Manly Again (that’s really what he’s been saying and what his frustrated snowflake followers have been hearing all along). The solution is likely to stop ejaculating  chemicals into the environment with Herschel Walkerian recklessness and, again, to get off our lazy bums:

While the study does not aim to prove the cause of the decline in sperm count and concentration, Levine said animal research points to a connection between environmental toxins and hormonal disruptions or imbalances, which in turn impede reproductive capacity.

Growing evidence that plasticisers, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, toxic gasses, air pollution and poor lifestyle choices such as sedentary behaviour, poor diet and smoking all are tied to abnormal sperm count.

“The primary suspect is a mother’s exposure to man-made chemicals during pregnancy,” Levine told Health Policy Watch. “We also know exposure in adult life and lifestyle choices such as smoking and poor nutritional habits can be associated with poor sperm count.”

He stressed, however, that the research is neither definitive nor does it establish which chemicals specifically may be causing the decline [Maayan Hoffman, “Environmental Toxins Likely Cause of 50% Decline in Global Sperm Count,” Health Policy Watch, 2022.11.15].

Of course, this assumes low sperm counts are a problem, which they may not be. Other research indicates the whole fuss over sperm count may be overblown:

But a fresh look at the data, published earlier this year in the journal Human Fertility, questions the theory that sperm counts are in decline.

The new analysis also found that sperm count has declined, but the drop is within the “normal” range. And perhaps more importantly for men worried about their fertility, scientists don’t actually know what the connection between sperm count and fertility looks like. So the authors of the fresh analysis offer a new way to think about the dip — the Sperm Count Biovariability hypothesis.

Marion Boulicault, one of the authors of the new paper, tells Inverse that the hypothesis hinges on a couple of crucial points:

  • First, it “encourages scientists to begin with an open mind to the idea that sperm count can vary.”
  • Second, that sperm count can vary “within a wide wide range.”
  • Third, that “many of the changes in sperm count might be non-pathological and species-typical” [Katie McBride, “Emerging Science Debunks the Myth of Falling Sperm Counts,” The Inverse, 2021.05.28].

Maybe men need to stop obsessing over tiny cells in the human reproductive system and focus on taking practical action to make themselves, their relationships, and our planet healthier.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-11-18 07:03

    You beat me to this blog post, Cory.

    Charles Whitman, Richard Speck, Timothy McVeigh, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza, Robert Dear, James Holmes, Eric Rudolph, Jared Loughner, Wade Michael Page, Eric Frein, Stephen Paddock, Nickolas Cruz, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, Payton Gendron and Salvadore Ramos all are or were christians. All these men were victims of bullying, isolation and ostracism. All had histories of extensive teevee usage, many to video game exposure and easy access to firearms. Distrust of government and race hatred factored in most, if not all of the episodes for which they are infamous.

  2. Nick Nemec 2022-11-18 07:16

    I’ll worry about reduced sperm counts when women are no longer able to get pregnant.

  3. Donald Pay 2022-11-18 08:50

    I’d be interested in a fuller explanation of this issue, and I expect, if the lowered sperm counts are real, scientists will want to study if other things are happening at the same time. If sperm counts reduce, but other things ( eg., sperm concentration, or individual sperm mass) increase, maybe there might be an evolutionary tradeoff going on. The same energy might be used taking into account the entire reproductive energy budget, but the strategy for reaching the egg is shifting a bit. It could be a co-evolutionary thing involving the female reproductive tract, as well. It could be that pollutants are causing lowered sperm counts, but the entire human reproductive strategy is evolving to compensate. There’s lots of interesting study ahead.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-11-18 09:39

    All the nurses I have been married to say the endocrinologist is the smartest doc on the floor. Maybe it’s because we humans manipulate our own environment and microbiomes faster than our hormone chemistry can adapt or evolve past what inoculations and toxins have done to the gene pool. There are plenty of other organisms on the planet with longer histories than Homo sapiens.

  5. John 2022-11-18 17:30

    The engineers that dump all sorts of forever chemicals into our lives likely has nothing to do with the low amounts and quality of the male seed. (Sarcasm).
    The larger near-term issue are advanced nations whose fertility rate is below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per female.

    Now US big business is waking up that the US labor shortage is generations-long problem only addressed in the short term by immigration. Lots of immigration. Those immigrants are going to come from places lacking social safety nets: Central and South America, African, and parts of Asia. Immigrants with a brain will go to modern nations with outstanding social safety nets like Canada, and the EU. The US will get the second tier, mostly. Xenophobic politicians like noem and her blonde twin, MTG, screaming about immigrants have no idea what they’re screaming about.

  6. Mark Anderson 2022-11-18 18:36

    Just make maturation illegal. Problem solved.

  7. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-18 18:40

    I’ve read hundreds of euphemisms for male ejaculate, but never met one male who could describe the difference between cum, jizz and sperm.

    Any thoughts, gentlemen?

  8. M 2022-11-19 07:39

    Well, I’m sure they’ll devise something really quick to jack that sperm count up, and then add it to their Viagra. Price it like aspirin and buy it over the counter.

  9. All Mammal 2022-11-19 09:32

    I can’t help but feel a void where mike from iowa’s mature and profound comment should be on this…

  10. Linda 2022-11-19 10:21

    There are many snarky comments here, but some of the data cited in the article ring true.

    In the late 80s, we had trouble conceiving. After very limited medical testing of both me & my husband, we found out he had low sperm count. Both the quantity and motility (how much they swim) were low. He ended up having varicocele surgery. 18 months later, I gave birth to a baby boy. And a few years later, a second boy.

    BUT, he continued to have ‘male’ issues. Ultimately, he died of testicular cancer at age 52. Our boys were 12 & 15 when died. We found out that while young males like Lance Armstrong commonly get testicular cancer, but the second most common age group are men in their early 50s. The statement, about low sperm counts being connected to testicular cancer later in life, is what happened to our family.

    It seems like if a guy knew his sperm counts were low, he could be more vigilant about getting proper care, soon enough to make a difference. My late husband chose to ignore his testicular cancer symptoms until it was too late to successfully treat it.

  11. e platypus onion 2022-11-20 10:46

    Magats are standing in line for the job of sexing each and every sperm counted and assigning it to the proper loo before it gets a chance to date an egg.

  12. sdslim69 2022-11-20 14:33

    About 15 years ago, I read a article/study about reduced sperm count in males in the US due to chlorine. It was called “Why are we half the man our grandparents were”. There have been studies on both sides of the issue since, but there seems to be a connection.

  13. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-20 17:41

    Linda: I was not snarky at all; just being honest. I regret your loss; I’ve been widowed for thirteen years.
    Nonetheless, if 90% of every male on this planet was sterile (no viable sperm) there would still be too many offspring.
    Cory is being a provocateur with this article to get replies and gratification.

  14. Loti 2022-11-20 18:48

    Ah ha, there goes the Abortion issue, Voila~less pregnancys.

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