Bug Me Not

Men whose urine is found to have high levels of one of three common pesticides have a ten-fold risk for having poor-quality sperm when compared to those men who have had no exposure to these chemicals. These findings come from a study by researcher Shanna Swan from the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Drinking Water

While the study was a small one including only 86 men from Minnesota and Missouri, and the results are not considered definitive, scientists found them persuasive enough to take a second look at Swan's suggestions. Swan feels that the weed-killers known as atrazine and alachlor along with the insecticide known as diazinon may be having an adverse effect on the fertility of those men who drink water that is contaminated with these chemicals.

Dr. Russ Hauser from the Harvard School of Public Health commented that it's rare to see such wide-reaching effects in a study on environmental epidemiology. That makes the conclusions very intriguing to experts in the field.

Controversial Topic

More to the point is the fact that Swan's study throws oil on the flames of a controversy that has been going on for a decade. The controversy revolves around whether exposure to toxic chemicals may be the reason for rising rates of male infertility in certain parts of the world including sections of Northern Europe where scientists are hard at work exploring this topic.

But the study also comes at a time when atrazine is being scrutinized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This chemical is the pesticide that is in most common use within the U.S. A recent study drew attention when it was found that male frogs residing in the Midwest were growing female gonads. That triggered the still-ongoing EPA scrutiny.

While diazinon, alachlor, and atrazine have been found in drinking-water all over America, the highest levels were found in the drinking water of the farm belt states such as Missouri. Swan's study was published in an online edition of the journal known as Environmental Health Perspectives. Her study is the first to assess the effects of these chemicals on sperm quality and quantity in those men who drink water contaminated with these compounds.

Swan's study showed that the strongest side effects were seen from drinking water contaminated with alachlor, which is used to kill weeds that attack corn and soybean fields. Men found to have very high levels of the chemical in their urine had a 30-fold risk for having low sperm counts and poor sperm motility in comparison to men with less exposure to alachlor.

The risks were lower but still quite significant in those men who had been exposed to high levels of atrazine and diazinon. The EPA phased diazinon out in 1990. Before that time, it had been the top lawn insecticide used within the U.S. DEET and malathion were also found to cause sperm abnormalities and issues.

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