With the world rapidly barrelling towards the peak of technological, biological, and scientific advancements, it has been becoming more and more difficult to overlook the side effects of these innovations and the way they affected our lifestyle. One might get concerned over the pollution aspect, or the changing nature of our tech-dependency and many other angles, but what is the most overlooked is how the new era has affected the fertility aspect of both men and women.
For ages, most of the blame has been condemned to women for not being able to bear children, and this prejudice is still continuing in not only most rural areas but also in certain urban areas. Nowadays though, the same unfortunate ‘courtesy’ has been extended towards men as well. Some think that said men and women are cursed, trying every kind of magical remedy and superstition. While it’s sad, it is also the grimmest truth of society.
Why Ignore Infertility?
The very topic of infertility or dare I say, the extended topic of sex education has been considered taboo for discussion which is why the problems related to this issue are very easily plunged into oblivion or ignorance. The rapidly increasing infertility rates in both men and women have been a major concern in the past few years.
Of course, with biological innovations such as surrogacy, insemination, and even adoption, the procedure to have a baby has become easier, but most of the time even trying parents forget to question their fertility rate and how it might affect the entire procedure.
According to the National Health Profile 2018, the fertility rates of women had just dropped below replacement levels in 12 states of India and just barely managed the level in the other nine states. Over the years, the level has dropped more and more, becoming an alarming issue throughout the country.
Infertility can stem from various factors, depending on the lifestyle of the host (women) or the sperm donor, health issues, age, diseases, like PCOS, AIDS, etc. But, one of the most common factors, though often overlooked, is pollution and its drastic effects on one’s health.
Though there are several aspects of pollution and its environment that affect one’s chances of having a baby, multiple research studies have corroborated the major reason behind infertility is chronic exposure to the chemicals knowingly or unknowingly in day-to-day lives. There are more than 3000 to 6000 chemicals around us, and one gets exposed to most of them every day.
We inhale almost half of them, coming out from the cars and transport, or maybe some industrial chimneys or what not. Out of these chemicals, scientists are particularly worried about the EDCs or the ‘Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals’, most commonly found in the food that we are eating – pesticides used on them, the aluminum foil used to wrap said food, in plastics, perfume, tap water, mobile phones we use, and even the air we breathe in.
These organo-sulfates and phosphates are also used in the steroids, and antidepressants that we consume, and can be very harmful to the reproductive hormones in our bodies if repeatedly exposed for overlong periods.
What are EDCs?
As the name suggests, EDCs disrupt the endocrine system of the body that basically keeps the hormonal levels in check, leading to major hormonal disbalance across different glands, especially the female hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone, and male hormones Testosterone and Androgen, responsible for making these reproductive gametes.
Because if these hormones are not secreted in the correct amount, sperm production and ovulation, both get hampered. Some other deadly chemicals with similar effects might be Phthalates, used for making cosmetics, soft and flexible plastics, room fresheners, or anything scented, and lowers the level of testosterone in an individual.
In girls, exposure to these chemicals affect the menstrual cycle period, prolonging to accelerating menopause. For men, it reduces sperm count to a significant amount, deteriorates sperm quality, and often leads to impotency.
Sometimes, these EDCs are also known to alter gender features and functions, having been linked to defective testicles and urethra issues in men, or fibroids and endometriosis in women. On a scarier note, there has been a significant increase in the birth of blue babies, and miscarriage counts (though they can be related to more common causes).
In short, these chemicals are used in almost every product that we use today, and getting rid of them is impossible. Our only hope is more research and the possibility to replace these chemicals with lesser harmful ones.
Chemical exposure and its effects on the reproductive side of human beings are unavoidable, but what is required more and more is the people to be aware of the fact and take as many precautionary methods towards it, and also keep in mind the alternatives.