Not as virile anymore? Blame those chemicals you cleaned your house with

Next time you are not able to "perform", blame those cleaners, paints and beauty aides — they have been degrading not only your fertility but also that of your dog.

 |  3-minute read |   07-03-2019
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Household cleaners, paints and solvents, lawn and garden care, automotive products, pool chemicals, health and beauty aids — sound like your everyday household products? Perhaps you just used some of these despite having extensively read and heard about the environmental hazards of these products?

Well, the joke is on you because these environmental hazards have now been established to degrade fertility — in both you and your dog.

According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the chemicals — at concentrations relevant to environmental exposure — have the same damaging effect on the quality of sperm of both man and dog.

There has been increasing concern over declining human male fertility in recent decades — with studies showing a whopping 50% decrease in sperm quality in the past 80 years across the globe. An earlier study showed that sperm quality in domestic dogs has also declined sharply, raising the question of whether modern-day chemicals in the home environment could be to blame.

The team from the University of Nottingham, Britain, set out to test the effects of two specific man-made chemicals — the common plasticizer DEHP, widely abundant in homes (e.g. carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires, toys) and the persistent industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 — which, although banned globally, remains widely detectable in the environment, including food. The researchers carried out identical experiments in both species, using samples of sperm from donor men and stud dogs living in the same region of the UK.

The findings were alarming.

main_man-and-dog_030619051233.jpgHousehold toxins degrade fertility in both men and dogs. (Representational image)

According to Richard Lea, associate professor, and leader of the research affiliated at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Sciences, "Our findings suggest that human-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. 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 — this new study is the first to test the effect of two known environmental contaminants, DEHP and PCB153, on both dog and human sperm in vitro, in the same concentrations as found in vivo.”

Rebecca Sumner, who carried out the experimental work as part of her PhD, says, “In both cases and in both subjects, the effect was reduced sperm motility and increased fragmentation of DNA. We know that when human sperm motility is poor, DNA fragmentation is increased and that human male infertility is linked to increased levels of DNA damage in sperm. We now believe this is the same in pet dogs because they live in the same domestic environment and are exposed to the same household contaminants."

Next, the team will focus on the region to see if location also impacts sperm vitality in both species.

However, it is a crystal-clear takeaway that we need to build a future which is far more conscious about chemicals while reducing the unwanted knock-on effects of the ones made and used earlier as much as possible.

The next time before you reach out for an aphrodisiac, consider lessening the chemical usage at home.

You, your dog and the environment will benefit.  

Also read: Why infertility is on a rise in India


Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

Assistant Editor, DailyO

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