Common Chemicals Damage Sperm

Researchers elucidate a molecular mechanism through which endocrine disrupting compounds compromise the viability of human gametes.

Bob Grant
May 13, 2014

WIKIMEDIAAdditives known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) compromise male fertility by interfering with a membrane-bound calcium channel that normally controls motility of sperm cells, according to researchers in Germany and Denmark. EDCs are used in hundreds of household products—including toothpastes, sunscreens, cosmetics, plastic bottles, and toys—and scientists determined that they can cause fertility problems in previous studies. But a study published in the journal EMBO reports yesterday (May 12) is the first to posit a mechanism for how the chemical additives affect fertility in the human reproductive tract.

“For the first time, we have shown a direct link between exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals from industrial products and adverse effects on human sperm function,” study coauthor and Copenhagen University Hospital researcher Niels Skakkebaek said in a statement.

Skakkebaek and his colleagues tested 96 EDCs and found that about a third of them disrupted the function of an...

The European Commission is currently reviewing its policies on EDCs. Allan Pacey, a researcher at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom, told the Guardian that the new study is interesting, but should not, in isolation, change the advice that physicians give to their patients regarding EDCs. “Although sperm calcium changes may be seen in the laboratory, this is a long way removed from what might happen in living people,” he said.