Wednesday - Nov 13, 2019

How Toothpaste, Soap and Sunscreen can Intervene with Sperm Function?


soap and toothpaste

Fertility issue is a possible cause of breakdown of a marriage. Couples finding hard to conceive may use it as a reason to separate. There are many factors that interfere with fertilization, and it is interesting to note that a lot of the common products that you regularly use like toothpaste, soap, sunscreen and other man-made products might actually contain chemicals that may intervene with sperm function. 

A recent study which was published in the Journal of EMBO entitled “Direct Action of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals on Human Sperm” identified the chemicals which believed to be an endocrine disruptor that causes interruption in the normal processes of the hormone which eventually affects sperm production.  These chemicals are said to be found in personal care and household products like toothpaste, soap and sunscreen that potentially have a negative impact on sperm function and fertilization.

Research team from the University Department of Growth and Reproduction in Denmark and the Center of Advanced European Studies and Research in Germany are the one who published the said report. The researchers noted that the endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDC’s are actually present in wide array of products such as textiles, drugs and food.  It is also present in other household products like toys, plastic bottles and even cosmetics.

There were already previous studies conducted regarding the potential health hazards caused by the endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  The earlier studies already questioned the safety measures used by manufacturers in producing the said products. While other studies also revealed the presence of EDC’s in commercialized plastic drinking bottles.

The policy of using EDCs in commercial products has been a subject for debate for a long time.  In fact, just last year toxicologist and endocrinologist had a debate against the European Commission regarding their policies and plans for EDCs.  Clinicians find it hard to argue before about EDCs because there is no acceptable experimental system that can clearly and directly points out the adverse effect of EDCs in humans.

Therefore, the result of this study provides solid evidence that linked EDCs to a potential risk of interfering with fertilization as stressed by the lead author, Timo Strunker from   the Center of Advanced European Studies and Research in Germany. The researchers were able to assay hundreds of potential high-risk chemicals that may interfere with sperm production. The results showed a significant difference that clearly suggests how endocrine disruptors can interfere with the widespread reproduction and fertility issues in the Western World.

They suspect that this might be the answer for the long-standing infertility riddle that bothers most clinicians today. Up to this date, the clear picture of prevalence of infertility issues in the Western World is not yet identified.  According to the team around one third of the tested chemicals showed adverse effect on the sperm production that lead to fertility problems.

They also found out that some of these chemicals are present in household products which are used regularly like toothpaste, sunscreen and other household products using man-made chemicals. These chemicals contains ultraviolet filters such as 4-methylbenzylidene camphor or 4-MBC which is used in making sunscreen and the Triclosan, which is an anti-bacterial agent used in making toothpaste. Professor Niels E. Skakkebaek, the lead author of the Danish team, also said that it is the first time wherein researchers are able to come up with a direct link between the EDCs from the commercialized products and its potential adverse effect on the normal functioning of the human sperm.

The researcher was able to identify the molecular pathway that links with sperm motility.  They found out that the CatSper Ion Channels which is the calcium channel responsible for controlling sperm motility are directly affected by EDCs.  In the experiment, the team uses different concentrations of body fluids and they were able to link how EDCs triggers the CatSper Ion Channel to open.  Opening of the ion channels, increase the calcium levels in the sperm which then change their swimming behaviour.

This activity has also triggered the release of the digestive enzymes that helps the sperm to penetrate through the egg cells.  EDCs also made the sperm less receptive to prostaglandins and progesterone which are the two female hormones released by the egg cells that allows the sperm cells to penetrate its protective coat. The findings clearly showed that EDCs disrupt the normal mechanism of sperm fertilization by changing the sperm’s swimming behaviour, disrupting its capability of navigation and interferes with its ability to penetrate into the protective coat of the egg cell.

The researchers were able to prove the direct link between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and its probable effect on sperm fertilization.  According to the researchers, up to date there are 800 industrial or man-made products that contains EDCs.  These chemicals are suspected to disrupt the sperm function and motility.

The team also recommends further studies to extensively evaluate these man-made chemicals and their other potential adverse effects in the overall health of humans. This is a matter that must be seriously taken care of considering that the chemicals mentioned are used in everyday products.  There is an increasing cases of male fertility issues which nearly 50% of which involves couples who are finding it hard to conceive. This is definitely a big issue for men and women considering that EDCs lessen their chances to reproduce.