The semen of Spaniards has industrial, plastic and other toxic additives

The quality of male semen has been declining for decades. The consequence is that the number of infertile men is increasing. All this is due to the current lifestyle and environmental pollution.

Currently, several Spanish research institutes have developed an improved method to detect organic contaminants directly in semen. Among the most recent, the one carried out by Dr. Pablo Gago Ferrero stands out for the use of a new, much more precise technology.

El study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, was carried out with semen samples from 10 men and showed, among other things, the presence of plastic additives potentially harmful to human health.

"It was important for us to develop a robust analytical method that can detect these chemicals in complex samples such as semen."
Pablo Gago-Ferrero, lead author of the study.

“There are very few studies that directly analyze semen. Most link environmental pollution to infertility by analyzing chemicals in body samples that are easier to obtain, such as urine or blood, but fewer have a direct link, he explains, with sperm quality.

The current study uses the latest advances in high-resolution mass spectrometry, the most effective method for detecting contaminants. This new technology applied in the study allows for the first time to analyze more than 2.000 organic compounds that are found directly in semen and that are potentially harmful to human health. Furthermore, this method opens the way to understanding how these compounds accumulate during sperm formation.

For this study, semen samples were collected from 10 healthy men between 18 and 40 years old residing in Tarragona within the framework of the Led-Fertyl project, from the Department of Human Nutrition of the Rovira y Virgili University and the Institut d'Investigació Sanitària Pere i. Virgili.

The results showed the presence of 21 chemical compounds in the semen!

Many different families of chemical compounds were found in the semen samples, including plastic additives such as phthalates (used to make plastics such as flexible PVC) or bisphenol A and S, widely used in food packaging, recycled plastics or textiles.

Both phthalates and bisphenol are of concern to regulatory bodies such as the European Chemicals Agency due to their adverse effects on male fertility.
In fact, the agency has recently announced the new daily consumption of Bispenol-A, which costs 20,000 times lower than before." Montsa Márquez, URV researcher.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) are another family of chemicals found in all samples.
These substances are widely used in industry and everyday life, they are found in dirt-resistant coatings, paints and varnishes, furniture, vessels, textiles, etc.

Current scientific evidence links long-term exposure to a variety of cancers, immune disorders, and metabolic problems.

In 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency lowered the safe limit for these compounds in drinking water from 70 nanograms per liter to 0,004.

"Our results indicate that these perfluorinated substances, present in the semen of healthy men, may be of fundamental importance in addressing male reproductive health problems." Gago Ferrero.

Finally, the presence of MBT, an industrial additive used in the production of rubber and tires, as well as a surfactant commonly used in personal care products, has been reported for the first time.

All of this data provides additional information so that regulations on the marketing and use of these compounds can be tightened to protect public health.