Are Pesticides Killing Your Sperm?

Why you probably don’t have to worry about your little swimmers just yet

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd


Pictured: A dude in a field of stuff. I’m no farmer, but it looks like some kind of plant. If it’s actually a field of cows, I apologize. Photo by Shad Arefin Sanchoy on Unsplash

There’s nothing we love to hate more than man-made substances. As a society, we have decided that things which we collectively make, regardless of how useful they may be, are secretly killing us in a myriad of ways. Every week there’s a new story about how some common household exposure is going to destroy humanity, whether it be mobile phones, screen time, or how much coffee everyone drinks these days.

The latest in the trend is pesticides. According to the headlines, common pesticides in our food are killing men’s sperm across the globe. As NBC put it, “Global decline in male fertility linked to common pesticides”, which is, if true, really quite terrifying.

Pictured: full of sperm-killing pesticides? Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

The subtext to these headlines is genuinely scary. If the results are correct, then we could be looking at a huge reduction in the human population very soon, and all because we used pesticides to help with growing crops.

Fortunately, the headlines are extremely misleading. While there may be some association between pesticides and sperm, it’s very vague and only really applies to people who work with the substances on a day to day basis. For the average person eating meals at home, there’s no evidence that you need to worry about these pesticides murdering your little swimmers.

The Science

The new study that has caused all of this ruckus is a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies looking at organophosphate and carbamate pesticide exposure and how that relates to semen production in adults. This is a type of study where the researchers use a relicable methodology to search through all of the literature on a subject, and combine all of the studies on a topic into one big meta-estimate.

After searching through a range of databases, this particular review aggregated together a total of 21 studies which represented 42 different estimates of how pesticide exposure was associated with sperm concentration. These figures were pooled together in the…