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Male Reproductive Health and Environmental Chemicals

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Decline in male fertility prompts government concern

European governments are becoming increasingly concerned by the decline in male reproductive health.


Across Europe, various problems have been recognised in the reproductive health of men. There have been significant reductions in average sperm counts, and there has been a decrease in semen quality. The study correlated these facts with a survey of the incidence of genital malformations. The fact that, for example, Denmark has a much higher incidence of genital deformities than Finland indicated an environmental cause for the problem. Parallel studies have shown that certain environmental chemicals can have hormone-disrupting activities and this provides a likely mechanism via which environmental factors could impact on male reproduction. These chemicals have been shown to influence male reproduction in animal models and work is ongoing to determine which pathways are affected. Several useful assays for screening potential hormone-disrupting chemicals have also been developed. A decline in male fertility and reproductive health has the potential to create enormous social and economic problems for Europe. There are already signs of this with the first indications of a recent drop in birth rates across Europe. So it is becoming a priority for European governments to address the environmental causes of the problem, and so reverse the trend.

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