Country Living May Be Hazardous to Men’s Fertility

No, contrary to a popular misconception, that old Axis of Evil
— tight jeans, tobacco, and alcohol — is not driving down sperm
counts, Orna Izakson reports on epidemiologist Shanna Swan’s
groundbreaking discovery; it’s the country life. Men from rural
areas where corn, sorghum, and soybeans grow rampant are at a
reproductive disadvantage when compared with their urban
counterparts. ‘Swan reported that men in Boone County, Missouri,
had a 42 percent lower sperm count than their counterparts in urban
Minneapolis.’

Swan’s study, published last July in Environmental Health
Perspectives
, placed the blame on farms using pesticides.
Researchers examined urine samples collected from the men and
looked for the presence of 15 different chemicals commonly used on
the farm. ‘Men with high levels of the herbicide alachlor were 30
times more likely to have diminished sperm quality’ and ‘men with
high levels of the insecticide diazanon or the herbicide atrazine
were 16.7 or 11.3 times more likely to have poor sperm quality,
respectively,’ writes Isakson. Such pesticides aren’t allowed in
urban areas any longer because of their toxicity to children, but
they are still rampant in agriculture, ‘primarily for fruit and nut
crops.’

Furthermore, Izakson points out, ‘there are well-documented
links between chemicals that have since been banned and the
complete loss of sperm in workers exposed to them, such as
dibromochloropropane, a pesticide historically used on pineapples.’
Despite criticism that her samples were too small and should not
have been conducted in the heat of summer when sperm counts
typically drop, Swan calls this news ‘enormously significant
because the pesticides we’ve linked to poor semen quality are among
the most commonly used.’
Jacob Wheeler

Go there>>
Country
Living May Be Hazardous to Men’s Fertility

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne
Archive:

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne
magazine

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.