Scientists warn of sperm count crisis

The Independent
by JEREMY LAURANCE

The reproductive health of the average male is in sharp decline, the world’s largest study of the quality and concentration of sperm has found.

Between 1989 and 2005, average sperm counts fell by a third in the study of 26,000 men, increasing their risk of infertility. The amount of healthy sperm was also reduced, by a similar proportion.

The findings confirm research over the past 20 years that has shown sperm counts declining in many countries across the world. Reasons ranging from tight underwear to toxins in the environment have been advanced to explain the fall, but still no definitive cause has been found.

The decline occurred progressively hroughout the 17-year period, suggesting that it could be continuing.

The latest research was conducted in France but British experts say it has global implications. The scientists said the results constituted a “serious public health warning” and that the link with the environment “particularly needs to be determined”.

The worldwide fall in sperm counts has been accompanied by a rise in testicular cancer – rates have doubled in the last 30 years – and in other male sexual disorders such as undescended testes, which are indicative of a “worrying pattern”, scientists say.

There is an urgent need to establish the causes so measures can be taken to prevent further damage, they add.

Richard Sharpe, professor of reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh and an international expert on toxins in the environment, said the study was “hugely impressive” and answered sceptics who doubted whether the global decline was real.

“Now, there can be little doubt that it is real, so it is a time for action. Something in our modern lifestyle, diet or environment is causing this and it is getting progressively worse. We still do not know which are the most important factors but the most likely are … a high-fat diet and environmental chemical exposures.”

Researchers from the Institut de Veille Sanitaire, St Maurice, used data from 126 fertility clinics in France which had collected semen samples from the male partners of women with blocked or missing fallopian tubes. The men, whose average age was 35, did not have fertility problems of their own and were therefore considered representative of the general male population.

The results, reported in the journal Human Reproduction, showed the concentration of sperm per millilitre of semen declined progressively by 1.9 per cent a year throughout the 17 years – from 73.6 million sperm per millilitre in 1989 to 49.9 million/ml in 2005. The proportion of normally formed sperm also decreased by 33.4 per cent over the same period.

Although the average sperm count of the men was well above the threshold definition of male infertility – which is 15 million/ml – it was below the World Health Organisation threshold of 55 million/ml which is thought to lengthen the time to conceive. Other European studies have shown that one in five young men has a sperm count low enough to cause problems conceiving.

Combined with other social trends, such as delayed childbearing which reduces female fertility, the decline in sperm counts could signal a crisis for couples hoping for a family.

Sperm count: How to boost it

1. Wear loose underwear – to make healthy sperm the testicles need to be below body temperature.

2. Eat food low in saturated fat.

3. Avoid smoking, drinking, using drugs and becoming obese.

4. Reduce exposure to industrial chemicals such as those used in making plastics – they can mimic the female hormone oestrogen countering male hormones.

5. Protect women in pregnancy – there is growing evidence that falling sperm counts may stem from effects in the womb.

6. Avoid anti-depressants – in rare cases they can cut sperm counts.

Pest Infestation-Reducing Bats Dying from Pesticide Exposure

GreenMedInfo

We may need to teach ourselves about the ‘bats and the bees’ if we want to keep feeding ourselves. Research is now confirming what has been observed by many farmers: Bats are necessary for keeping many types of crop-eating insect populations from swarming, and their populations are becoming dramatically reduced due to the widespread use of pesticides on our crops.

Researchers from the University of Tennessee tracked populations, eating habits and migration patterns of Brazilian bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), and compared them to the patterns of corn earworm moths (Helicoverpa zea) through multiple seasons.

They determined that the bats tracked and migrated with the moth infestations, and fed off of the moths where they gathered – among corn crops. The bats were found to migrate to moth infestations, dramatically reducing their populations. The evidence provided confirmation that bats are lethal predators of these and other pests that threaten our crops.

The researchers confirmed with their conclusion the importance of bats to preventing pest infestations on cropland and urban areas: “Our results support growing evidence for the role of generalist predators, and bats specifically, as agents for biological control and speak to the value of conserving indigenous generalist predators.”

At least 70% of bats are insect-eaters. The type of insect eaten depends greatly upon the species. There are over 1,200 species of bats. They will typically eat the insects known to infest that particular geographical region, but many also migrate with the insects as determined in the Tennessee research. Some bat colonies have been observed eating tens of thousands of pounds of insects each night.

Bats are dying by the millions

The problem, however, is that bat populations are being reduced in many areas, and researchers are suspecting the involvement of pesticides. This is concerning numerous bat and environmental experts, who have connected insect infestations to bat population reductions.

According to the Bat Conservation International, a group committed to the conservation of bats, more than 5.7 million (and possibly up to 6.7 million) bats have died from a disease called the White-nose Syndrome. The disease appears to be connected to a fungus, but is also related to immunosuppression among the bats.

The link to pesticides

The syndrome is strikingly similar to the bee’s colony collapse disorder, which many have attributed to a virus, but more recent research is connecting the disorder to pesticides. The research on CCD among bees has increasingly indicated that pesticides weaken the immune system, allowing the infection to take hold. Now this connection is also being made among bats.

Researchers from the State University of New York and the New York State Department of Health with the Department of Environmental Health Sciences released a study that illustrated that bats were accumulating toxic chemicals from pesticides and these were connected with their subsequent immunosuppression as well as hormone disruption.

They found that little brown bats found diseased with the White-nose syndrome also had significantly high levels of several pesticide- and herbicide-related chemicals in their fat tissues. These included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs which include DDT, chlordanes, HCB, and HCH). They found the highest levels of PCBs and PBDE concentrations in the bat fatty tissues were related to bats from regions with cropland spraying of pesticides.

The connection between declining bat populations and pesticides is also beginning to unfold among other research. Researchers from Germany’s University of Koblenz-Landau tested bats and bat activity among apple orchards before and after the orchards had been sprayed with pesticides. They found that bats were increasingly retaining pesticide residues and this was decreasing their activities and populations among the orchards.

Their research concluded a connection between pesticides and bat population loss: “The results emphasize the importance of adequately evaluating the risks of pesticides to bats, which, compared to other mammals, are potentially more sensitive due to their ecological traits.”

Bat populations are slow to rebound

Bats typically will have only one offspring, meaning that re-population of bats is a long and difficult process.

Bat experts have calculated that the loss of 5.7 million bats converts to nearly 4 billion pounds of additional insects. According to Bat Conservation International’s Executive Director Nina Fascione, losses in bat populations indicate a critical issue to come, as “the environmental and economic costs will be enormous.”

The loss of our bat populations will not only produce greater incidence of pest infestations. Many species of bats are important pollinators for many types of fruits. These species of bats prefer eating pollen to eating the insects that attack plants. The bats go from flower to flower eating pollen. Some of that pollen gets stuck in their fir, getting carried to other flowers. This effective pollination method is very similar to bees who transfer the sticky pollen from plant to plant as they harvest different flowers.

Most bat experts agree that bats are still somewhat mysterious due to their nocturnal activities. We are slowing realizing – and possibly too late – is that our widespread use of chemical pesticides is backfiring. Not only are we becoming poisoned by them: Those beneficial species that work alongside our food crops to assure their pollination and pest control are also becoming poisoned, and this may well threaten the future of our food supply.

Big Chem, Big Harm?

NYTimes
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

NEW research is demonstrating that some common chemicals all around us may be even more harmful than previously thought. It seems that they may damage us in ways that are transmitted generation after generation, imperiling not only us but also our descendants.

Yet following the script of Big Tobacco a generation ago, Big Chem has, so far, blocked any serious regulation of these endocrine disruptors, so called because they play havoc with hormones in the body’s endocrine system.

One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine.

Even before the latest research showing multigeneration effects, studies had linked BPA to breast cancer and diabetes, as well as to hyperactivity, aggression and depression in children.

Maybe it seems surprising to read a newspaper column about chemical safety because this isn’t an issue in the presidential campaign or even firmly on the national agenda. It’s not the kind of thing that we in the news media cover much.

Yet the evidence is growing that these are significant threats of a kind that Washington continually fails to protect Americans from. The challenge is that they involve complex science and considerable uncertainty, and the chemical companies — like the tobacco companies before them — create financial incentives to encourage politicians to sit on the fence. So nothing happens.

Yet although industry has, so far, been able to block broad national curbs on BPA, new findings on transgenerational effects may finally put a dent in Big Chem’s lobbying efforts.

One good sign: In late July, a Senate committee, for the first, time passed the Safe Chemicals Act, landmark legislation sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, that would begin to regulate the safety of chemicals.

Evidence of transgenerational effects of endocrine disruptors has been growing for a half-dozen years, but it mostly involved higher doses than humans would typically encounter.

Now Endocrinology, a peer-reviewed journal, has published a study measuring the impact of low doses of BPA. The study is devastating for the chemical industry.

Pregnant mice were exposed to BPA at dosages analogous to those humans typically receive. The offspring were less sociable than control mice (using metrics often used to assess an aspect of autism in humans), and various effects were also evident for the next three generations of mice.

The BPA seemed to interfere with the way the animals processed hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin, which affect trust and warm feelings. And while mice are not humans, research on mouse behavior is a standard way to evaluate new drugs or to measure the impact of chemicals.

“It’s scary,” said Jennifer T. Wolstenholme, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia and the lead author of the report. She said that the researchers found behaviors in BPA-exposed mice and their descendants that may parallel autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder in humans.

Emilie Rissman, a co-author who is professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at University of Virginia Medical School, noted that BPA doesn’t cause mutations in DNA. Rather, the impact is “epigenetic” — one of the hot concepts in biology these days — meaning that changes are transmitted not in DNA but by affecting the way genes are turned on and off.

In effect, this is a bit like evolution through transmission of acquired characteristics — the theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the 19th-century scientist whom high school science classes make fun of as a foil to Charles Darwin. In epigenetics, Lamarck lives.

“These results at low doses add profoundly to concerns about endocrine disruptors,” said John Peterson Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences. “It’s going to be harder than just eliminating exposure to one generation.”

The National Institutes of Health is concerned enough that it expects to make transgenerational impacts of endocrine disruptors a priority for research funding, according to a spokeswoman, Robin Mackar.

Like a lot of Americans, I used to be skeptical of risks from chemicals like endocrine disruptors that are all around us. What could be safer than canned food? I figured that opposition came from tree-hugging Luddites prone to conspiracy theories.

Yet, a few years ago, I began to read the peer-reviewed journal articles, and it became obvious that the opposition to endocrine disruptors is led by toxicologists, endocrinologists, urologists and pediatricians. These are serious scientists, yet they don’t often have the ear of politicians or journalists.

Related: EVEN BPA-FREE PLASTIC NOT ALWAYS SAFE

IQ Ratings Suffer from Car Pollution, Tobacco Exposure

Natural Society

We are all subject to the dangers of air pollution. Even if you live in the country, you are exposed to some level of pollution, from your own vehicle or tobacco if you smoke. But a study from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health finds that high levels of pollution can affect the eventual intelligence of children, making for lower IQ ratings. Other studies link the same pollutants to depression, asthma, and many other health concerns.

Pollution From Cars, Tobacco Linked with Lower IQ Ratings

The study looked at prenatal exposure to air pollution, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). What they found was pregnant mothers exposed to high levels of these pollutants gave birth to children who would eventually have significantly lower IQ ratings based on intelligence tests at age 5.

These pollutants (PAHs) come from the burning of fossil fuels, used in vehicles and industry. They are also emitted in smaller amounts from the burning of organic materials like tobacco, according to UPI.com.

The study looked at 214 children born to healthy, non-smoking white Polish mothers between 2001 and 2006. During pregnancy the women wore air monitors in small backpacks to measure their exposure to pollutants. They also provided blood and cord samples at the time of delivery.

The children were then tested and monitored through the age of five. They were tested on reasoning and intelligence and were found to have lower IQ ratings as exposure to pollution increased.

A similar study in New York in 2009 found similar results with low IQ ratings among children born to nonsmoking African American and Dominican American women.

Frederica Perera, author of the New York study says these findings are significant because they show air pollution exposure could be “educationally meaningful in terms of school performance.” She also points out, however, that air pollution, in general, has declined somewhat over the past decade or so.

PAH exposure in the womb has also been linked to things like asthma, low birth weight, premature delivery, and heart malformation.

A more recent study from Environmental Health Perspectives found that prenatal exposure to pollutants is associated with a 24% higher score of anxiety and depression in young children. Children as young as six and seven are experiencing depression and anxiety because of toxins in our air.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, we are exposed to PAHs in a number of ways:

Breathing: Most people are exposed to PAHs when they breathe in smoke, auto emissions or industrial exhausts. Most exhausts contain many different PAH compounds. People with the highest exposures are smokers, people who live or work with smokers, roofers, road builders and people who live near major highways or industrial sources.

Drinking/Eating: Charcoal-broiled foods, especially meats, are a source of some PAH exposure. Shellfish living in contaminated water may be another major source of exposure. PAHs may be in groundwater near disposal sites where construction wastes or ash are buried; people may be exposed by drinking this water. Vegetables do not absorb significant amounts of PAHs that are in soil.

Touching: PAHs can be absorbed through skin too. Exposure can come from handling contaminated soil or bathing in contaminated water. Low levels of these chemicals may be absorbed when a person uses medicated skin cream or shampoo containing PAHs.

Using skin care products containing PAHs, cooking with charcoal, and job choice can all impact our exposure.

Hormone-Mimicking Chemicals Cause Inter-Species Mating

Science Blog
BPA in rivers leads to breakdown of fish species barriers

Hormone-mimicking chemicals released into rivers have been found to impact the mating choices of fish, a new study has revealed. The controversial chemical BPA, which emits oestrogen-like properties, was found to alter an individual’s appearance and behavior, leading to inter-species breeding. The study, published in Evolutionary Applications, reveals the threat to biodiversity when the boundaries between species are blurred.

The research, led by Dr Jessica Ward from the University of Minnesota, focused on the impact of Bisphenol A (BPA) on Blacktail Shiner (Cyprinella venusta) and Red Shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis) fish which are found in rivers across the United States. BPA is an organic compound used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics. It is currently banned from baby bottles and childrens’ cups in 11 U.S. states.

“Chemicals from household products and pharmaceuticals frequently end up in rivers and BPA is known to be present in aquatic ecosystems across the United States,” said Ward. “Until now studies have primarily focused on the impact to individual fish, but our study demonstrates the impact of BPA on a population level.”

The team collected individuals of both species from two streams in the state of Georgia. The species were kept separated for 14 days in tanks, some of which contained BPA. On the 15th day behavioral trials were undertaken as individuals from different tanks were introduced to each other.

The scientists monitored any physiological or signalling differences the individuals displayed, such as colour, as well as any behavioral differences during courtship, such as mate choice.

BPA disrupts an individual’s endocrine system, which controls the release of hormones. This impacts behavior and appearance, which in turn can lead an individual to mistake a newly introduced species as a potential mate.

This process poses long-term ecological consequences, especially in areas threatened by the introduction of invasive species. BPA and other hormone-mimicking chemicals can escalate the loss of native biodiversity by breaking down species barriers and promoting the invader.

“Our research shows how the presence of these manmade chemicals leads to a greater likelihood of hybridization between species,” concluded Ward. “This can have severe ecological and evolutionary consequences, including the potential for the decline of our native species.”

Related stories: Interspecies Sex: Evolution’s Hidden Secret?

Media Continues Skin Cancer Scare by Vilifying Natural Sunlight, Vitamin D

Activist Post

 What is one of the biggest threats to health today according to the mainstream media? It’s not the fact that mercury is present in a wide majority of the processed food supply, or even the fact that excessive amounts of radioactive waste is now admitted to have heavily contaminated the Pacific Ocean.

No, the number one villain according to the mainstream media is natural sunlight — the very same sunlight that generates vitamin D upon coming into contact with your skin.

Vitamin D has been found to slash your risk of cancer, aid in fat loss, beat fluoride in cavity prevention, and much more. Nonetheless, it appears that the substance is quite threatening as far as the media is concerned.

The FDA continues to announce the effectiveness of sunscreen, urging consumers to get higher SPF level products — many of which contain cancer-causing chemicals that are of much greater threat than natural sunlight. In addition, sunscreen completely blocks the production of vitamin D. Is it any wonder why there has been a resurgence of the rickets?

Sun exposure, it seems, is something that is quite deadly according to the press. According to many ‘experts’ like Dr. Robin Ashinoff, chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, it is important to ‘shield yourself as much as possible’ from the sun.

In fact, the doctor states that going outside with sunscreen is ‘almost as bad’ as going out without sunscreen. Surging up fear among concerned mothers worldwide (who will not allow their children out of the house without slathering them up with sunscreen and therefore causing serious childhood development problems), the doctor states:

Wearing sunscreen and then deliberately going out in the sun is almost as [bad] as going out with no sunscreen at all. You don’t get burned, but the UV rays are still getting into your skin. Sunscreen is important, but you should also wear the right clothing and shield yourself as much as possible from direct sun exposure.

Ashinoff goes on to say that when it comes to sunscreen, you should get the “highest number” you can — particularly anything above 50 SPF. Essentially, the sun is being propagated as carcinogenic threat to the entire population.

Meanwhile, the real threats lie in the sunscreen formula itself – lending reason as to why sunscreen causes cancer. Oxybenzone and other vague mystery chemicals are commonly placed in many brand-name sunscreens, with many such chemicals yet to be proven as safe to use at all. About 8 percent of all sunscreens have been quality tested by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to be both safe and effective for the intended use, whereas the other 92 percent contain at least one (if not many more) of the ingredients designated as detrimental for human use.