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How to avoid the environmental agents behind infertility

Reading time: 16 minutes

Something is wrong with human reproduction. Not only did the “population bomb” environmentalists warned us about fail to blow, but humanity is now facing a population implosion like nothing in history.

Birthrates have plummeted over recent decades to crisis levels, below replacement level in America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan—just about every westernized country where economies are beginning to strain under aging demographics. They are dropping in countries with traditionally high levels, like India and China, too.

It’s not just that fertility has fallen because women are choosing to delay childbirth and have smaller families. It’s that more and more young people in countries worldwide are unable to conceive or bring a baby to term when they want to, and the problem seems to be getting worse.

Among American women aged 15–49 years who have never given birth, 19 percent do not succeed at getting pregnant after trying for a year—the medical definition of infertility, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 That’s up 13 percent from the percentage found among women aged 15–44 just 12 years ago.2

It’s a trend around the globe, and the trouble is not just with women. In 2017, leading reproductive epidemiologist Shanna Swan published a study that quickly went viral for its staggering statistical findings: the sperm counts of men worldwide had dropped a whopping 59.3 percent from 1973 to 2011.3

Not only that, but as Swan revealed in her 2021 book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race (Scribner, 2021), it isn’t just men’s sperm counts that are dropping at a rate of 1 percent per year. So are their testosterone levels, and rates of testicular cancer and miscarriage are simultaneously climbing at the same rate.

Swan’s conclusions about the reproductive health of the current generation of young people are jaw-dropping: a young man today has about half the sperm his grandfather had at the same age, and in many countries, a woman in her 20s today is less fertile than her grandmother was at age 35.

Swan, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, New York, has researched reproduction for decades and began looking at sperm counts in 1992, when the British Medical Journal first reported a nearly 50 percent decline in the quality of human semen.4 It’s chilling to hear how she interprets the numbers.

“I felt and remain genuinely scared by these findings on a personal level,” she says. “We really are in a dangerous situation for mankind and world fertility.” In her view, the world is truly on a trajectory to a dystopia like in the film Children of Men, where there is no hope because there are no children.

Clearly, something is terribly wrong, and the fertility sea change is happening too fast to blame genetics—something, or more than one thing, in the environment must be doing the damage. And it is devastating, not just on a global level, socially and economically, but on a personal level for every couple whose right to bear children is lost.

The Kenyan story

“I have seen the tears,” says Antoninah Mutinda of Kenya. “You lose your identity. You die inside.”

Mutinda’s first pregnancy lasted three weeks. Her second lasted about four weeks. She miscarried her third pregnancy at 10 weeks. Mutinda is featured in the documentary Infertility: A Diabolical Agenda, released this year by the Children’s Health Defense (CHD). Director Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy Jr tell the story of how government and health agencies working in African countries knowingly gave women a tetanus vaccine that could make their bodies produce antibodies to β-human chorionic gonadotropin.

β-human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that acts as a first signal to a woman’s body that she is pregnant. It triggers the ovaries to produce the hormone progesterone, which is needed to carry a pregnancy to term.

Tests revealed that Mutinda had sky-high levels of antibodies to hCG—effectively, her body’s own immune system was attacking the hormone she needed to carry her pregnancies, leading to miscarriage after devastating miscarriage.

But how did a healthy young Kenyan woman develop this autoimmune condition? The CHD documentary uncovers a chilling story of how the World Health Organization (WHO) underwrote decades of research that began in the 1970s, developing an anti-fertility or contraceptive vaccine. It described tetanus vaccines that would trigger an immune system response to hCG whenever it was encountered, as in whenever a woman became pregnant.

By 1992, a birth control vaccine against the hormone hCG using the tetanus vaccine as a carrier had been developed. In the mid-1990s, the WHO, in partnership with other international groups including UNICEF, rolled out anti-tetanus vaccine campaigns in developing countries including the Philippines. Women and girls of childbearing age only were recruited for multiple tetanus vaccine injections just months apart—not the usual tetanus vaccine schedules several years apart—in order to prevent neonatal tetanus.

When samples of the vaccine were tested, they were found to contain hCG—which shouldn’t have been there. WHO denied the accusations it was tampering with vaccines in the 1990s, but when Kenya demanded their tetanus vaccines be tested before rollout in the country, WHO withdrew at the time.

In October 2013, WHO and its network of government and local health agencies returned with a massive launch of a tetanus campaign directed at women of reproductive age only. Normally infants received them, and pregnant women were eligible for two additional shots, given at least a month apart, to prevent neonatal tetanus in their newborns. But in the WHO campaign, all women and girls ages 15 to 49 were to have five shots at six-month intervals—a big red flag for those who knew the history of the contraceptive vaccine.

Dr Wahome Ngare, an obstetrician-gynecologist and president of the Kenyan Catholic Doctors’ Association, said that when his group first grew suspicious of the WHO/UNICEF-sponsored tetanus campaign, they obtained vials of the shots from nurses and had them tested by independent labs, which confirmed that half the samples contained hCG. When the Kenyan government insisted on providing its own samples for testing later, these turned out to be negative, but the lab discovered that new labels had been placed over the labels on the vials sent to the testing laboratory—not only were they not from the same batch, but the original labels underneath were from a completely different vaccine manufacturer. The government had deceptively submitted tetanus vaccine vials that had not been used in its campaign.

“To imagine that a system somewhere, some people somewhere, are behind my inability to carry pregnancy to term, that is a diabolical agenda,” Mutinda told the CHD filmmakers.

Not just in Africa

But vaccine-induced sterility is not unique to the developing world. Other vaccines have been implicated in infertility, too. One case study published in 2012 in the BMJ by Australian physicians Deirdre Little and Harvey Ward described a 16-year-old girl whose regular menstruation ceased after she received vaccines against the human papilloma virus (HPV), and she was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure—an autoimmune reaction that causes infertility.5

Two years later, they followed with a case series of more teens who had entered premature menopause—a phenomenon they said was ordinarily “so rare as to be also unknown.”6

The doctors pointed to the troubling use of the chemical polysorbate 80 in the vaccine since it had been shown to cause delayed ovarian toxicity in rat ovaries over a tenfold range of injected doses.7 Further, the shot is loaded with high doses of the neurotoxic and immune-stimulating adjuvant aluminum, which has also been linked to subfertility.

In 2014, French infertility researcher Jean-Philippe Klein and his colleagues at the University of Lyon published a study on the aluminum content in the sperm of men seeking assistance at a French infertility clinic. They sent semen samples from 62 men with trouble conceiving to aluminum researcher Christopher Exley’s laboratory at Keele University in England. There, fluorescent staining showed the samples with aluminum contamination in the DNA-dense heads of sperm lit up a luminescent blue, and more so in the men with the lowest sperm counts.8

Health authorities never investigated while hundreds of cases of pregnancy loss, menstrual irregularity and other reproductive issues continued to be logged on the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) following HPV shots in young girls and women.

In 2018, however, Gayle DeLong, an associate professor of economics and finance at Baruch College, City University of New York, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which had surveyed eight million women aged 25 to 29 living in the United States in 2007–2014. Using logistic regression, a type of analysis that estimates the likelihood of an event, she found that among women who didn’t get an HPV vaccine, about 60 percent had conceived at least once, compared to just 35 percent of women who had been injected—a number that translated into two million childless women and millions of missing children.9

DeLong said her study did not prove the HPV vaccine was a culprit, but she, too, called for urgent further investigation. Rather than considering her plausible culprit for soaring infertility, critics from within the pharmaceutical industry howled and her study was retracted—an increasingly common response when researchers ask questions that drug makers don’t like.

What about Covid shots?

Early into the mammoth experimental Covid vaccine rollout, one side effect popped up in adverse event collecting systems and in chat rooms across the globe early on: thousands of women said they were experiencing menstrual irregularities—missed periods to no periods, heavy periods to onset of postmenopausal bleeding—after the shots. Since menstrual irregularities can signal problems with fertility and vaccines are not meant to act on the reproductive system, this is a serious signal.

What’s more, thousands of reports of pregnancy loss, spontaneous abortion and miscarriage began turning up in passive reporting systems like VAERS. As of July, Vigibase, the drug adverse event reporting database of the WHO, catalogued 220,107 reproductive health disorders plus another 11,915 pregnancy conditions among its reports of more than 4 million adverse events.10 While it can’t be proven that these reports are related to vaccination (it also can’t be disproven), they are recognized as the tip of a much larger iceberg of experienced adverse events.

After dismissing the reports as “coincidental” and “disinformation” for more than a year, the mainstream media reported in early 2022 that researchers at Oregon Health and Science in Portland, Oregon, carried out a study involving 3,959 vaccinated and unvaccinated women over several months that confirmed vaccinated women’s cycles were extended approximately one day extra per dose of coronavirus vaccine. In addition, about 10 percent of those who received two shots within a cycle had a clinically abnormal cycle extension of longer than eight days.

Notably, the study did not examine heavy bleeding, missed periods, or unscheduled or postmenopausal bleeding.11 Subsequent studies continue to confirm women’s reports.12

Canadian vaccine developer Byram Bridle pointed to unpublished Pfizer data showing that the lipid nanoparticles used to encase the mRNA in the new vaccine did not stay at the injection site in arm muscle as expected. Instead, they migrated to distant sites throughout the body and were most concentrated in the ovaries—a finding that could have drastic effects on fertility in women.

Chemical insults

Besides injections that may trip the immune system into autoimmune attack, muck up fertility function, or interfere with a baby’s development and delivery, there are so many chemicals in the environment that can derange reproductive function that teasing out a single cause for infertility becomes difficult. In the post–World War II industrial revolution, chemicals that mess with fertility have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and a mountain of evidence now points to their influences on sexual and reproductive health.

Swan’s research has focused on environmental chemicals that impact hormones, which are key to sexual and reproductive development. They’re called endocrine-disrupting chemicals and they are everywhere in our daily lives: in our cosmetics and toiletries, our food and food packaging, the medicines we’re told will help us, our furniture and cleaning detergents, the water we drink and even the air we breathe. These molecules mimic our own hormones, triggering cascades of reactions at the wrong time.

For decades, research has been trickling in and now is reaching a torrent showing that these chemicals are silently damaging human fertility—and not just in those who are consuming them directly now, but especially in those who were exposed to them in their mother’s wombs before they were even born. Most of the irreversible damage that endocrine-disrupting chemicals do occurs during development in the womb.  

Chemical criminals

Here’s a list of the worst offenders and how to avoid them.

Plastics

Phthalates

A group of chemicals used to soften plastics, including particularly bad players di-2-ethylhexyl-phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DPH).

Sources Two million tons of phthalates are produced every year for use in food processing, containers and plastic wrap (with recycling label No. 3); plastic toys; cosmetics and toiletries that contain fragrance; furniture and mattresses; construction material; vinyl flooring; and hospital equipment including tubing and intravenous bags.

Research findings Phthalate syndrome was the term coined to describe multiple male reproductive development problems linked to male babies’ exposure to phthalates while still in the womb. These include a shorter anogenital distance (AGD)—the distance between the anus and the base of the penis—which is linked to a smaller penis and low semen quality later in life, traits that translate into trouble conceiving.

Several human epidemiological studies have shown that that exposure to phthalates can increase the risk of endometriosis, a complicated immune-mediated condition that is a leading cause of infertility in women, as well as miscarriage, reduced testosterone levels, low semen quality, premature breast development and breast cancer.13

DEHP is linked to ovarian and testicular disorders in animals and has toxic effects on the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver.14

A 2018 review of phthalates’ actions showed “robust evidence of an association between DEHP and DBP exposure and male reproductive outcomes” including AGD, semen parameters, testosterone levels and time to pregnancy.15

A study published in July 2022 by researchers at the Lebanese American University assessed the exposure of hospitalized patients to DEHP and its metabolites, including mono-2-ethyhexyl phthalate (MEHP) from IV bags made in Lebanon. They found hazardous concentrations in almost every patient tested, and the highest concentrations in newborns with the lowest body weight, which the researchers said is “concerning, knowing the adverse effects of MEHP in infants.”16

Alternatives

  • Use glass or metal containers for food and water. Wrap foods in paper or beeswax fabric instead of plastic wrap.
  • Replace toiletries that contain phthalates with phthalate-free versions. Ditch anything labeled vaguely as containing “fragrance” or “flavor” since this likely means it contains a phthalate, which is not required for labeling.17
  • During hospital treatment, ask doctors to use a phthalate-free IV bag, particularly for a newborn or a pregnant woman.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

A chemical used to harden plastics since the 1950s has been known as a potent mimic of the hormone estrogen since the 1930s.

Sources BPA is used in plastic water bottles and food containers, including the lining in food cans; on thermal receipt paper used in stores,18 and in adhesives, dental sealants and more.

Research findings As well as being linked to cancers, including breast cancer, recent data showed BPA causing adverse effects on the male reproductive system, including lowering semen quality. Current studies also suggest early exposure to BPA could lead to late-onset changes that could be inherited by epigenetic means, such as methylation.19

Alternatives

  • Use glass, fabric, and paper or wax food wraps.
  • Avoid handling store receipts.
  • Ask your dentist about BPA-free sealants.
  • Be careful when you see the label “BPA-free” since some substitutes are turning out to be just as bad. Bisphenol  S, which has replaced BPA, has turned out to promote premature puberty and obesity and damage human eggs, according to Swan.

Microplastics

Microplastics are tiny fragments of all kinds of plastics in the environment.

Sources Plastic industry, breakdown of plastics, fabrics, pandemic face masks,20 cigarette filters and more.

Research findings Microplastics have been demonstrated to induce testicular disorder in mammals. Current research has shown a connection between gut microbiota and male reproduction and a key role for gut microbiota in microplastic ingestion causing reproductive toxicity.21

Pharmaceuticals

After tragic medical mistakes, including the use of thalidomide in the early 1960s for morning sickness, leading to fetal deaths and deformities, doctors should be loath to prescribe anything at all to pregnant women. However, that doesn’t mean today’s young women of reproductive age aren’t bombarded with offers of pharmaceuticals.

From antidepressants and antibiotics to the Pill and vaccines, the drugs these women are offered might impact their fertility down the road.

What’s more, many of us are frequently exposed to unclear doses of various pharmaceuticals that are flushed into our waterways and contaminate our drinking water.

The Pill

Source Contraceptives that contain synthetic estrogen and progestin.

Lara Briden, a naturopathic doctor and author of The Period Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods (CreateSpace, 2017), says one of the worst disruptors of natural cycles is the birth control pill, which by design doesn’t just “regulate” key hormones but shuts them down and switches off ovarian function.

“A pill bleed is not a real period,” says Briden. It’s a calculated drug dose response to reassure women that their bodies are still “working” even while their real hormones have been chemically suppressed.

Nowadays, doctors put even tweens and teens on the Pill and let them stay on it indefinitely, for everything from acne to period cramps. Getting things going after being on the Pill can be especially difficult, particularly for women who began early and stayed on long. It may take significant time to ovulate after a chemical stop, and some women’s ovulation delay may lead to a misdiagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), one of the most common causes of infertility in women.

It happened to Briden’s patient, Christine, who had been on the Pill since age 14 and only stopped when she was 29. When she failed to ovulate for several months, her doctor said she may have PCOS after he took a pelvic ultrasound. Briden suggested she wait a while longer and take Vitex agnus-castus (also known as chasteberry)—a supplement derived from the Mediterranean shrub whose fruit and seeds are used to make medicines traditionally used to treat reproductive ailments. After three months taking one V. agnus-castus tablet a day, Christine began ovulating again.

Briden never recommends the Pill for period complaints or hormone imbalance, especially to young women.

Research findings Numerous studies have linked the Pill to blood clotting, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, headaches and migraines as well as depression, mood changes, weight gain, decreased libido and more.

Scientists have become particularly concerned about the contamination of waterways used for drinking water with the synthetic hormone 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), an ingredient in most contraceptive pills, because of its ability to “feminize” male fishes and its association with plummeting fish fertility. A landmark 2007 study described a seven-year experiment in northern Ontario, Canada, in which trace amounts of EE2 induced “intersex” male minnows whose testicles contained eggs, as well as altered egg production in female fishes. This ultimately resulted in the “near extinction” of the species from the lake as well as a threat to larger fish populations.22

A 2015 study reported that Japanese medaka fish exposed to EE2 appeared to have healthy offspring, but the third generation of fish struggled to fertilize eggs—with a 30 percent reduction in fertilization rates—and their embryos were less likely to survive. Even the fourth generation of fish had 20 percent lower survival rates, though they were never directly exposed to the hormone.23

Alternatives A woman can conceive during only six days of her cycle, and understanding fertility and your personal cycle is a boon to achieving pregnancy. The Fertility Awareness Method and the Billings Method are not the old rhythm method that used calendar dates to determine when you might conceive.

There are lots of apps available to help women chart their symptoms and conceive—or not—without the use of pharmaceuticals that have far-reaching effects. See more about the Daysy Fertility Awareness Tracker online at daysy.me or learn more about fertility from the Billings Ovulation Method at billings.life.en.

Painkillers

Sources Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol or paracetamol in the UK, is consumed by up to two-thirds of women at some point during pregnancy. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), including aspirin, diclofenac and ibuprofen, are widely consumed as well, including by pregnant women. Opioids, including morphine, are the most abused prescription painkillers.

Research findings An exhaustive 2022 review paper looks at the mechanisms by which NSAIDs and analgesics may impair fertility—from the development of testes and ovaries in utero to reproductive organ and hormone function in adulthood—in exposed animals and their offspring.

It concludes that, “like other endocrine disruptors,” NSAIDs and Tylenol (acetaminophen/paracetamol) interfere with endocrine gland function and may have inter/transgenerational adverse effects. Particularly, they may target eggs and sperm, lowering fertility in the animals exposed to them and in their descendants. “Epidemiological studies show that exposure to these molecules in the first and second trimester of gestation can favor genital malformations in newborn boys.”24

Besides being highly addictive and one of the leading causes of death in young men, opioids damage male reproductive function by several means. They can lower testosterone and semen quality, including by increasing the risk of DNA fragmentation in sperm.25

Alternatives Omega-3 fish oils have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects in arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.26 Supplementing vitamin D when low levels are detected might help with chronic pain.27 For dosing, see the Vitamin D Society recommendations at vitamind-society.org.

Antidepressants

Source Prescribed for mood disorders including depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Women are twice as likely to consume antidepressants as men, but consumption among both sexes has soared in recent years, climbing 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, according to the CDC. About one in eight Americans over age 12 reported taking an antidepressant in the past month.28

Research findings Besides that research has finally demonstrated conclusively that SSRI (serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) antidepressants do not correct a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, there’s a growing body of evidence that antidepressants can reduce the ability to conceive naturally,29 upset women’s menstrual cycles30 and pose a greater risk of miscarriage in the first trimester.31

Alternatives

  • The efficacy of exercise in mitigating clinical depression is well-documented.32 
  • Meditation has also been shown to lessen depression and anxiety symptoms.33

Pesticides

Sources Insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Research findings Pesticides have been linked to male sterility since the 1970s, when some classes of them were banned after men working in pesticide plants were found to have sperm counts as low as zero and many were sterile.

A 2015 study showed that men attending an infertility clinic in Spain had lower sperm concentration and counts and higher concentrations of pesticides in their urine.34

Research from 2001 found that women who lived within two miles of a place where so-called halogenated hydrocarbons were used during the first two months of their pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a miscarriage caused by fetal defects. Other common pesticide types—organophosphates and carbamates—raised the risk by about 40 percent. The risk was higher if women lived within one mile of the farm where the pesticides were used.35

Atrazine 

As it’s one of the most common pesticides and herbicides used to control weeds in agriculture in the United States and Canada, about 80 million pounds of atrazine are used in the US alone every year. However, it was banned by the European Union in 2004.

Sources Corn, soy, sugarcane, Macadamia nuts, and runoff water from farms and lawns.

Research findings Tyrone Hayes, a developmental endocrinologist from the University of California, Berkeley, found that exposure to atrazine had a feminizing effect on leopard frogs and toads, leading to testosterone levels lower than those of female frogs and the production of eggs in their testicles. It leads males to produce eggs rather than sperm.36

Alternatives

  • Purchase organic food whenever possible
  • Do not use lawn pesticides
  • Check your local water supplier’s latest water report (free) or send a sample of your local tap water to a certified lab for testing. If you have contamination, use an activated carbon or carbon block filter jug or system to remove almost all atrazine and herbicides.

 

References

1 

“Infertility FAQs,” March 1, 2022, cdc.gov

2 

National Health Statistics Report No. 67, Aug 14, 2013, cdc.gov

3 

Hum Reprod Update, 2017; 23(6): 646–59

4 

BMJ, 1992; 305(6854): 609–13

5 

BMJ Case Reports, 2012; doi: 10.1136/bcr-2012-006879

6 

J Investig Med High Impact Case Rep, 2014; 2(4): 2324709614556129

7 

Food Chem Toxicol, 1993; 31(3): 183–90

8 

Reprod Toxicol, 2014; 50: 43–48

9 

J Toxicol Environ Health A, 2018; 81(14): 661–74

10

vigiaccess.org

11

Obstet Gynecol, 2022; 139(4): 481–9

12

Womens Health (Lond), 2022; 18: 17455057221112237

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Reprod Biol, 2021; 21(1): 100476

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Biomed Res Int, 2018; 2018: 1750368

15

Environ Int, 2018; 121(Part 1): 764–93

16

Toxics, 2022; 10(7): 357

17

“Phthalates in Cosmetics,” May 19, 2022, fda.gov

18

PLoS One, 2014; 9(10): e110509

19

Reprod Biol Endocrinol, 2019; 17: 6

20

Environ Pollut, 2021; 288: 117748

21

Environ Pollut, 2022; 309: 119789

22

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2007; 104(21): 8897–8901

23

Sci Rep, 2015; 5: 9303

24

Front Toxicol, 2022; 4: 835360

25

Adv Exp Med Biol, 2017; 1034: 39–57

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J Clin Rheumatol, 2017; 23(6): 330–9; Surg Neurol, 2006; 65(4): 326–31; Med Sci Monit, 2019; 25: 9531–37

27

Nutrients, 2022; 14(2): 266

28

CDC, NCHS Data Brief No. 283, Aug 2017

29

Am J Obstet Gynecol, 2016; 215(3): 314.E1–E5

30

Gen Hosp Psychiatry, 2012; 34(5): 529–33

31

Fertil Steril, 2018; 109(5): 879–87

32

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 2004; 6(3): 104–11

33

Front Psychol, 2019; 10: 506

34

Environ Res, 2015; 137: 292–8

35

Epidemiology, 2001; 12(2): 148–56

36

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2002; 99(8): 5476–80; Environ Health Perspect, 2003; 111(4): 568–75

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