An international sperm study came out in 2017 that shocked the world–Men in first world countries, particularly the United States and Europe, have fallen victim to severely degraded sperm since the 1970s. In fact, the sperm quality of men has decreased 50% in most first world countries. Now that’s a bold claim, but researchers got that information by analyzing semen samples from 42,935 men from 50 countries from 1973 to 2011. Evidently, men were far more virile back in the 1970’s so what happened?
Well here’s another piece to the puzzle. Researchers in 2017 determined that over $340 BILLION in the United Staes is spent on health care costs and loss of productivity linked to the effects of hormone disrupting chemicals. Hormone disrupting chemicals are chemicals that have the ability to affect your hormones and how they work in your body. They can hijack your hormone system and even change the way your genes are expressed. These chemicals care also linked to infertility in both women and men. So if we have a problem with too many hormone disrupting chemicals in our environment and we have a fertility problem, could these chemicals also be linked to the degradation of sperm in American men? Researchers are saying this is very possible considering the links hormone disrupting chemicals also have to infertility.
All of a sudden I feel like I’m living in the scene of the Handmaid’s Tale where they say even the men have trouble conceiving.
Phthalates Are Linked to Fertility Problems in Men
One class of chemicals of particular concern when it come to male fertility is phthalates. Said “thal-8s.” Phthalates are a byproduct of our life of convenience…they are chemicals in plastic, personal care products and some foods. They work to make plastic stronger or make fragrance last longer and they contaminate our food through processing and packaging. Phthalate contamination is very common in things like water from plastic bottles, food eaten out of plastic cups and bowels, personal care products with “fragrance” like cologne, shampoo and lotion and food products utilizing powdered cheese.
Yes, I know. I cried too about the organic mac and cheese. The organic industry isn’t working to eliminate phthalates from their food products…yet. The contamination happens during processing. Let’s hope they do better in the future.
How to Protect Young Boys & Men From Phthalates
So what do you do when you are a mom of three young boys and you really want grandchildren one day? Create a “Save the Swimmers” campaign in your home. Let me explain. The mission of the campaign is to educate the public, primarily women caring for these little or big men, and assist them in making a safer home environment for them.
Step One: Avoid most common sources of phthalates inside the home.
Step Two: Purchase from brands that are safeguarding the sperm of your family. For a list, pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!) by Leah Segedie of Mamavation.
Step Three: Get others on board. Raise awareness about how these chemicals are linked to a degradation of sperm in your community.
Rock Your Vote By Supporting Better Companies
And maybe if we are really lucky people will stop buying products that are linked to sperm degradation and start buying products that protect the men in their life. Safer products at the grocery store mean a safer life for anyone shopping there.
But this is about my boys and the future of my family, which I’m not apologizing for being protective about. I mean cause…adorable DNA. We are a family of gingers and redheads are rare. Wouldn’t it be important to protect the gingers? I mean the hashtag should almost be #savethegingers because they alone deserve their own hashtag. With three boys–two redheads and one strawberry blonde, I feel like I’m single handedly propagating this segment of our species. Lots of hope is riding on my success.
Additional Ways to Avoid Phthalates and Save the Swimmers
It’s so sad the way we treat sperm nowdays. I mean a 50% decrease means they are basically screaming for help. But in our house, I’ve started to take them more seriously. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to decrease the amount of phthalates my children are exposed to. It’s important to understand that you will never be able to get rid of all the phthalate contamination in your life. That simply isn’t possible unless you never leave your home, but these tips will cut that exposure down dramatically.
- Do you really need that straw? Seriously.
- Just say no to plastic water bottles. Plastic bottles leach phthalates into the water when heated. And since you have no idea what happened to that bottle before you got it, it’s safer to just opt out. It’s cheaper to just get a stainless steal or glass bottle and carry that around with you instead.
- I tell my kids not to put anything plastic in their mouths, including using their teeth to open packages or sticking plastic toys in their mouth. NOOOOO!
- Eat more whole foods you have to prepare yourself. Prepared food is awesome in a pinch, but the packaging it comes in can be a source of phthalate contamination. (Or other more sinister things like PFCs which are linked to thyroid issues, tumors and weight gain, among other things.)
- When you go to purchase a bottle of lotion, shampoo or conditioner, flip the product over and look at the very bottom of the ingredients. Do you see the word “fragrance”, “perfume” or “parfum”? That means this brand is not disclosing their fragrance ingredients and there is a good possibility they are using some type of phthalate to keep that synthetic smell they are using last longer. So don’t purchase it. The best options you can find in my book Green Enough here.
- Avoid powdered cheese products. The processing of powdered cheese, regardless if it is organic or not, has increased the amount of phthalates within the product. (Note that all dairy products have phthalate contamination, but the more processed the dairy, the more you’ll find. And the phthalates stick to the fat in the dairy so this is why I’ve gone back to lowfat yogurt. We don’t avoid dairy completely in my home, but don’t eat as much as I did when I was a kid.)