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Pesticides and children: exposure at a young age threatens fertility in adulthood

Men who ate contaminated food when they were teenagers have increased risk of becoming infertile. That’s what a study conducted on the population of the Faroe Islands reveals.

Adolescent exposure to environmental pollutants such as organochlorines could cause them to produce faulty sperms, according to researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health of George Washington University. The study is the first to assess the link between exposure to these substances during the teenage years and fertility problems years later.

Research author Melissa Perry led a team that tested blood and sperm samples taken from 90 men aged 22 to 40 living in the Faroe Islands, North Atlantic Ocean. Blood samples taken at age 14 of 33 of them were also tested.

Faroe islands diet pesticides
The diet followed by the population of the Faroe Islands is rich in food containing pesticides

The island’s population follows a diet rich in seafood, including whale meat and blubber, which results in higher than average exposure to organochlorine pollutants, including PCBs and DDT, that are still used in farming in some tropical countries. These pollutants are stored in animal fat.

salmon fats pesticides
Salmon, as other animal products rich in fats, may be high in pollutants.

To detect sperm disomy, a condition in which sperms have an abnormal number of chromosomes, not only did researchers used blood samples but also a sperm imaging method devised by Melissa Perry. So, it was possible for the team to find that men with higher levels of organochlorines in the blood, both by then and at age 14, had significantly higher rates of abnormal spermatozoa, and consequently, increased odds of developing infertility.

pesticides farming food
The pesticides used in farming can pollute the environment, air, water and all food products © www.gojimannutrition.com

“Most people can reduce their exposure to PCBs and DDT by cutting back on foods that are high in animal fats and choosing fish wisely. This study, and others like it, suggest that any decisions about putting biologically active chemicals into the environment must be made very carefully as there can be unanticipated consequences down the road”, Perry said.

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