Common Chemical Morphs Sperm: New Study

Parabens…these ubiquitous chemical preservatives are in our personal care products, cosmetics, soaps–even processed foods. Researchers studying the effects of these chemicals have determined them to be endocrine disruptors and scientific studies have linked them to breast cancer and infertility.  Other studies have found that parabens may have adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune-system side effects. Now, in this most recent study, scientists have discovered that parabens have the ability to morph sperm into abnormal shapes and slow them down, thereby altering their quality, and potentially leading to infertility.

Despite all the scientific evidence of the potential harm from these chemicals, and despite the fact that certain parabens are banned from cosmetics in some European countries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to give a big ‘thumbs up’ for their use by U.S. corporations.



Common chemicals in cosmetics, soaps tied to poor semen quality

(Reuters Health) – Men who have been exposed to common chemicals known as parabens have lower testosterone levels and more sperm that are abnormally shaped and slow moving, according to a study that suggests these ingredients may contribute to infertility…

[In addition to having reproduction difficulties]…Compared to men who had low concentrations of parabens in their urine, men with high concentrations of the chemicals also had a larger proportion of sperm with what’s known as abnormal morphology, or unusual size or shape, that’s associated with infertility, the study found.

Higher levels of parabens in the urine were also associated with DNA damage in the sperm and what’s known as decreased motility, or slower moving sperm that may contribute to infertility by being unable to travel far enough to reach an egg.

The current study found one chemical in particular, butyl paraben, associated with an increase in the percentage of sperm with an abnormal size and shape as well as a decrease in sperm motility.

Another chemical, ethyl paraben, was associated only with sperm of atypical size and shape.


Parabens are widely used in the U.S.

Parabens are widely used preservatives in cosmetic products, including soaps, creams and makeup. The most common parabens in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Typically, several parabens are used in combination to increase their effectiveness.

Some parabens are banned from cosmetics in the European Union, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not limited use of the ingredients.


“Parabens are in many products: sunscreens, body lotions, facial lotions and cleansers, mascara, assorted lipsticks, hand soaps, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, gels, and some food products.”

-Dr. Marisa Bartolomei, co-director of the epigenetics program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia


Parabens are a Chemical of Concern

Past research in animals has suggested that parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen and lower testosterone levels…

Parabens and other so-called hormone disruptors may have developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune-system side effects, and they may be found in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, pesticides, plastics, detergents, food, toys, and flame retardants, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Journal source: Jurewicz, J., et al. Human Semen Quality, Sperm DNA Damage, and the Level of Reproductive Hormones in Relation to Urinary Concentrations of Parabens. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2017.

DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001106

Solutions:  Read the ingredients labels on all products and food prior to purchasing/using. Avoid products and food items with any type of paraben listed. Opt for choices that are organic, or that at least say “Paraben Free”, or better yet, make your own meals and snacks from fresh, whole ingredients (they taste far better anyway!) and make your own DIY personal care products using fresh, natural ingredients. There are plenty of great recipes for fresh foods and toxin-free personal care products available online.