Readers please note: This is an extremely complex subject. I've had to stick to basics and issues rather than the raw science.
Declining male birth rates and related issues are developing into a picture of an emerging disaster. A new documentary called The Disappearing Male
in The Sydney Morning Herald attracted my attention. What made my hair stand on end were a couple of quotes:
“12 years ago, 60 million sperm per millilitre was the standard. Now it’s 20 million, and WHO are talking about 10 million.”
“85% of sperm are abnormal.”
Interesting viewing, to say the least. A bit of research then came up with this little piece from the Times of India:
...A decade earlier, male infertility was blamed in around 20% of cases where couples could not conceive naturally. This number has risen to around 50% in recent times, say doctors. Many environmental factors and lifestyle choices are considered to be responsible for the increasing male factor infertility.
…From the country with the world’s most conspicuous birth rate, an unexpected bit of information.
Information, in fact, is what’s obviously lacking. It’s not too surprising that nobody wants to tell the world’s would-be fathers that they have a great chance of having sick kids or no kids, but how spineless would you have to be, to have that as an editorial policy?
(Just as a matter of interest on the subject of non-information: Whatever happened to mass lynchings of criminals, anyway? Failure to disclose a health risk is actionable. So is genocide, direct or indirect. In lieu of mass lynchings, let’s see a few nice class actions sending the causes of this disaster broke- Then lynch them. Always remember your testosterone has other uses, guys. There are 3.5 billion guys, all of whom would like some more money and better health, so why not give it a shot? Class actions are cheap and can be very rewarding.)
I tried to find any news about WHO guidelines, and there wasn’t any. That the world can be subjected, knowingly, to a massive drop in fertility rates without a mention is hardly impressive. If humanity doesn’t get off its backside and deal with this issue, it’s closing time for the Homo Sap. circus. Even a new reality game show won’t kiss this one better.
History of an unpublicized catastrophe?
The culprits are a range of hormone-mimicking chemicals, notably phenols, which are practically universal in all areas of industrial chemistry. These things exist in plastics and a huge range of consumer products. Apparently the stats trace back to the big postwar boom in chemical production and new chemical products coming on the global market- 90,000 of them, in fact. That also dovetails with the rise of plastics and other phenol-based products as universals in consumer goods.
There’s a sort of logic here. The failure was based on the relatively simple science of the time. Industrial chemists aren’t biologists, let alone doctors. Cross-disciplinary interaction at the industrial level wasn’t well developed even the 1960s and 70s.
There would have been no way of knowing the biological parallels and interactions of new chemicals with hormonal systems, either, which is a comparatively far more recent development in medical science. Nor would regulators have had much input. They, by definition, were after the event when these chemicals went on the market and the basis of regulation was primitive, compared to current science.
A further, annoyingly predictable fact is that male infertility isn’t very well understood. Male fertility issues account for about 40% of infertility issues, with female issues about the same. Historically, fertility has only become a major issue in the last couple of decades. IVF was the first of the treatments, and it’s now a booming industry. The trouble for the new research is that keeping up with the problems is turning in to full time work. Current information online looks like a sketch, rather than the usual in depth, major production volumes of information well-known health issues produce.
There’s also another dimension to male hormonal issues- Hormone problems are being associated with a grim litany of childhood problems including ADHD, dyslexia, diseases and birth defects. Add these issues to an obvious crash in fertility, and you’re looking at a nasty little scenario for future generations- A hormonal raffle, with any sort of consequences.
Now consider another point- Totally inept, possibly insane policy makers. Most of the world’s policy makers aren’t scientists, health experts or much more than letterboxes for political ideologies. That hasn’t stopped them from shooting off their comatose, illiterate mouths and laws about anything, but it also means that managing major public health issues like fertility is no longer a functional possibility. “Total negligence” is the working euphemism.
Case in point, If the US Congress, of all organizations, is incapable of even acknowledging the need for basic, practical public health in practical terms, what will it do with infertility issues? Probably nothing. With Johns Hopkins and the world’s greatest collection of medical experts on standby, the world’s only collection of super-klutz birdbrains will drop the ball again.
There’s also a big administrative issue for the sciences- Testing the chemicals. One of the more jaw-dropping bits of information in the documentary was that most of the chemicals haven’t been/weren’t tested on human beings. So there’s a whole knowledge base waiting to be created.
The cultural issues will be interesting, if equally grim. Given the number of conspiracy theories which assume that someone is trying to wipe out the world’s population, infertility will be more fodder to replace facts. Just assume that every group on Earth is responsible for this situation, and you’ve already read all the books which will be produced on the subject.
There is a way round even the obstacle course of a totally dysfunctional society, however. Better science, and a lot of it. The chemistry of the 1950s is by now largely obsolete. Phenols are very old tech. The new polymer science is generations ahead of it. Self-assembling materials are also a new option. This is totally different science, and if it may well come with its own risks, in this case better the devil you don’t know to this one.
Self-help is the other big option. The dangerous products will have to be quarantined by the public. Authorities have no level of trust in terms of managing corporate products. Apparently they don’t mind dying to preserve someone else’s profits.
Until then, kick out anything you can see with the word “phenol” in it, guys. Lose the plastics, (amazing how many people have always preferred glass for drinks) avoid GM foods and hormonally made foods, ditch the laminates. Log cabins and caves can be fun.
More fun than sick kids and childless homes, anyway.