The greatest threat to humanity’s survival may not be an asteroid, or even climate change. Mankind’s doom may be lurking in men’s pants.
Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, warns that sperm counts are plummeting across the globe, and by 2045 the average man’s viable sperm count could be close to zero.
“That’s a little concerning, to say the least,” she says.
Swan and co-author Stacey Colino have written a book warning of the fertility crisis, with the rather weighty title: ”Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperilling the Future of the Human Race."
In the book, they warn that the total sperm count in the western world has fallen by around 59% in the years between 1973 and 2011.
"If you look at the curve on sperm count and project it forward,” Swan told Axios, “it reaches zero in 2045.”
She acknowledges that drawing a line on a graph can be “a little risky” when it comes to projecting the future but theoretically, the average man some 25 years from today would have essentially no viable sperm. A statistic that she says is “concerning.”
Even today, roughly, half of the world’s nations have fertility rates below 2.1 – the number required to keep a population stable or growing. By 2050, that proportion is projected to rise to two-thirds of nations.
Swan says that there are many drivers for this disturbing trend. Some of them relate to lifestyle and a very different work/life balance to previous generations, but she adds that pollution is also a significant factor.
She says chemicals in the environment are “are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc.”
Swan points the finger in particular at phthalates and bisphenol-A, which she calls "everywhere chemicals" because they appear in so many products such as plastic packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and even cashpoint receipts.
She also said factors such as tobacco smoking, cannabis and more widespread obesity play a role.
Put together, Swan suggests, these factors could be behind the marked rise in the number of boys being born with significant genital abnormalities, and increased numbers of miscarriages.
“Of five possible criteria for what makes a species endangered,” she warns, “only one needs to be met.
"The current state of affairs for humans meets at least three.”
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