Pesticides and Male Fertility

There is conflicting evidence in the literature, at least for pesticides used in the current millennia, as to whether they are associated with any health consequences at all. Certainly, in prior decades, a number of pesticides were associated with health consequences. One of the most famous may have been in the increased risk of male infertility for male farm workers
exposed to pesticides containing DBCP (dibromochloropropane) in South America. Essentially, that chemicals literally caused the testes to shrink and sperm counts to drop.

DBCP is no longer in use, but other pesticides are. Is it possible they pose risk as well? According to a study from the journal Human Reproduction, the answer may be “yes”.

Pesticide Consumption 

In a study conducted by the Chan School of Public Health in Boston, authors Chiu et al reported that 155 men attending a fertility clinic were found to have on average a lower total sperm count and lower percentage of morphologically normal sperm if they consumed fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues. Fruits and vegetables considered to have high residue included: spinach, strawberries, red, green and yellow peppers, celery, blueberries, potatoes, peaches, apples, pears, squash, kale and grapes. Foods with low to moderate residue included: beans, onions, avocado, corn, cabbage, cantaloupe, bananas, eggplant, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and stringbeans. Men with the highest intake of pesticide-heavy fruit and vegetables – at least 1.5 servings per day – had an average total sperm count of 86 million sperm per sample compared with 171 million for those whose consumption was lowest.

Still, this should not be interpreted as advocating a removal of all fruits and vegetables from one’s diet. Men may simply want to be more careful about which ones they eat, and possibly consume relatively fewer items with high levels of residue while increasing intake of others.

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