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Common Household Chemicals Harm Sperm in Both Men and Dogs

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Mar 12th 2019

new article illustration

TUESDAY, March 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Two chemicals found in household products and food could harm male fertility in both dogs and people, U.K. researchers say.

The chemicals are the plasticizer DEHP -- used in products such as carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires and toys -- and the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153). Even though it is banned worldwide, PCB153 is still widely present in the environment, including food.

For this study, researchers from the University of Nottingham conducted laboratory tests with sperm from men and dogs. Their tests revealed that levels of the two chemicals consistent with environmental exposure had the same damaging effects on sperm in both species -- reduced sperm motility and increased fragmentation of DNA.

Previous studies have reported a 50 percent decline in human sperm quality worldwide in the past 80 years. Another study by the same U.K. team found a similar decline in domestic dogs, pointing to the possibility that chemicals present in the home could be a factor.

"This new study supports our theory that the domestic dog is indeed a 'sentinel' or mirror for human male reproductive decline, and our findings suggest that man-made chemicals that have been widely used in the home and working environment may be responsible for the fall in sperm quality reported in both man and dog that share the same environment," study leader Richard Lea said in a university news release.

Lea is an associate professor and reader in reproductive biology at Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

"Our previous study in dogs showed that the chemical pollutants found in the sperm of adult dogs, and in some pet foods, had a detrimental effect on sperm function at the concentrations previously found in the male reproductive tract," he said.

Lea added that the new study is the first to test the effect of DEHP and PCB153 on both dog and human sperm in the lab, in the same concentrations found in real life.

Gary England is dean of the university's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

"Since environmental pollutants largely reflect a Western way of life such as the effects of industry, the chemicals present in the environment are likely to depend on the location," he said in the news release. "An important area of future study is to determine how the region in which we live may effect sperm quality in both man and dog."

The study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on male infertility.