Feb 132008
Authors: Tim Maddocks

A study released last week by a CSU biomedical sciences professor found common household chemicals and widespread pollutants to cause male-reproductive dysfunction.

Rao Veeramachaneni’s study found that mixtures of common pollutants can cause impaired sperm, impotency and birth defects of male genitalia – all causes of infertility.

Chemicals in pesticides and insecticides, as well as chemicals in drinking water, plastics, cosmetics, upholstery, laundry detergents and shampoo, were tested extensively on lab animals.

Veeramachaneni’s findings show that specific chemicals, certain types of phthalates, DDT and pesticides, introduced to male lab animals cause sexual abnormalities.

However, his findings do not indicate that the chemicals are necessarily the cause for the same abnormalities often found in humans.

Deb Morris, director of promotions at Heartshorn Health Center, said low sperm count and poor sperm motility can be attributed to smoking cigarettes or marijuana. Studies have also shown that radiation and exposure to lead can also cause infertility.

Veeramachaneni has researched the effects of chemicals on the male reproductive systems of animals for 15 years. He said the research stemmed from the global popularity of chemicals since World War II.

“Even though DDT (the once-popular mosquito repellant) was banned in the 1970s, it has a half-life of 30 years,” Veeramachaneni said.

He said that some recent samples from “environmentally protected” Alaska still have DDT in them.

The continual rise of widespread use of chemicals coupled with studies showing a decrease in quantity and quality of sperm spurned the development of Veeramacheni’s research.

Veeramachaneni said studies have shown that a 1.5 percent decrease in sperm in American males “is not a small number.”

“We found that most culprits are pesticides and phthalates,” he said.

The types of phthalates studied can be found in every household. For example, phthalates permeate all microwaveable food heated in plastic containers. Veeramachaneni said, however, that pollutants in modern life are virtually inescapable since the EPA says one-third of the nation’s lakes and one quarter of its rivers are polluted.

Babies in the womb are especially susceptible to pollutants.

Also, rabbits exposed to the phthalates during certain stages of fetal development were born with birth defects, hypospadias and cryptorchidism.

Hypospadias is when the opening of the penis is abnormally placed on the bottom and cryptorchidism is when the testis don’t drop.

Vinclozolin, a commonly used fungicide, was another chemical studied. Veeramachaneni found that male rabbits exposed to vinclozin during fetal development were born with complete lack of interests in females.

When Colin Lesyinski, a junior history-education major, heard about the research he found it to be “border-line disturbing.”

“It feels like there will always be these studies coming out … soon we’ll all have to be agoraphobic,” he said.

Staff writer Tim Maddocks can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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