Chemicals in Food and Products Causing Sperm Counts to Crash: Scientists

Yet another scientific study* has confirmed that toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our personal care products, food, home care products and general environment may be behind the dramatic drop in sperm counts worldwide.  The study found sperm counts have fallen by more than 51 percent between 1973 and 2018. And while sperm counts have been dropping for decades, the decline rate now appears to be speeding up. One of the primary suspects for the dramatic decline in sperm counts are all of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in food, home care products and personal care products

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in thousands of everyday items, from personal care products to food packaging, have particularly dire impacts on reproductive function, according to scientists. The endocrine-disrupting chemicals of most concern are phthalates and bisphenols, compounds used as linings in products such as water bottles and takeout food containers, among other everyday items such as personal care and home care products. These potentially harmful chemicals “have been found in samples of blood, urine, semen, placenta and breast milk of nearly all humans investigated.”

“It is well established that these chemicals have become part of our tissues and fluids. We know that they can be a threat to wildlife. Unfortunately, too little has been done to uncover their role in humans,” say the scientists involved in the study.

Bisphenols like BPA and BPS (the chemical now commonly used in U.S. products labeled, “BPA-Free”) are routinely added to food and beverage packaging and have also been linked to declining male fertility, as well as birth defects.


Many potentially toxic chemicals “reach us via food. A lot of bisphenol A intake is via milk. The linings of milk cartons and canned food, for example the tomato tins, leach BPA into the [food] product.

-Dr. Andreas Kortenkamp, professor, Brunel University London


Avoid highly processed food, including fast food, and prepare your own meals, drinks and snacks using fresh, whole ingredients, organic where possible. There are numerous quick, easy recipes available online–many for free. Also avoid canned food and opt for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and make your own homemade soups. Additionally, avoid food and beverages sold in plastic and plastic-coated containers and choose options sold in glass.

As for personal care and home care products, always choose options marked, “phthalate-free” where possible. Some of the many products shown in scientific studies to contain phthalates include food packaging (where the endocrine-disrupting chemicals migrate into the food), personal care products (like cosmetics, soaps and hair care products including shampoos), medical supplies and household products (like plastic shower curtains).

For more information on the scientific findings linking endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA and BPS and phthalate chemicals, go to our Chemical Watch Blog, scroll down to the bottom of any article and put the name of the chemical (like “phthalates” or “BPA”) into the search box.

*A systematic review and meta-regression analysis was conducted, and the results reported, in accordance with Meta-analysis in Observational Studies in Epidemiology and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines.

Journal references: Levine, H., et al. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis of samples collected globally in the 20th and 21st centuries, Human Reproduction Update, dmac035, November 15, 2022.

Levine, H., et al. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis, Human Reproduction Update, Volume 23, Issue 6, November-December 2017, Pages 646–659,