November 15, 2014 08:17
A wide range of everyday activities and changes in the environment can lead to a lowered sperm count in men, which causes difficulties in fathering children, studies suggest. The subject is not unimportant in Korea, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.
Both environmental pollution and wider use of electronic devices have been linked to a reduced sperm count. Chemical toxins like phthalates, which in some ways mimic hormones, are damaging sperm.
The most common environmental hormones found in daily products include triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in consumer products including soap and toothpaste, while plastic contains Bisphenol A in the epoxy resin coatings of tableware.
The electromagnetic waves emitted by smartphones and laptops may also have a harmful effect on men's testicles and damage sperm. A 2011 study by a team of researchers in Argentina found that using a smartphone or laptop with a Wi-Fi connection for more than four hours a day caused more than 25 percent of sperm to stop moving, while nine percent suffered DNA damage.
Lee Hyung-rae at Kyunghee University Medical Center said, "Keeping an electronic device closer to your testicles, such as placing a laptop on your knees or putting your cell phone in your pocket, can do a lot of harm."
Some everyday habits can also harm sperm. Sperm is most active in temperatures around three to four degrees lower than the body temperature of 36.5 degrees Celsius, and sperm production stops when the temperature exceeds 36.5 degrees.
One problem is tight pants. Lee Yoon-soo, who runs a fertility clinic in Seoul, said, "Tight pants raise the temperature of the testicles so if you want to protect your sperm, loose pants are recommended." Saunas are bad for sperm for the same reason, and sitting on a chair for more than six hours a day increases pressure on the testicles and harm sperm by raising the temperature.
Stress is another problem. Researchers at Columbia University in New York have found that men who were under a lot of pressure had a lower sperm count than men who were more relaxed. Stress affects hormone secretion, and can suppress the production of male hormones, which reduces sperm production, they said.
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