Today the man has half as much sperm as his grandfather. And thus, we are entering a “fertility crisis.” Our way of life and living environment have a worrying impact on fertility and sperm quality in men.

Scientist Shanna Swan is an epidemiologist who studies the relationship between environment and fertility status. She tells the BBC more about the current 'fertility crisis'. She uses the term crisis to emphasize the seriousness of the matter. “In 2011, we examined the concentration of sperm in men. At the time, that number stood at 47 million per milliliter of semen. 39 years earlier this was 99 million per milliliter. That is a decrease of more than one percent per year," says the scientist.

Swan says it's time to wake up. As soon as this number falls below 40 million per milliliter, it becomes much more difficult to have children. “It's urgent,” she says. It turns out that men have half as much sperm as their grandfather. And women today in their twenties are a lot less fertile than their grandmother was at age 35.

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Causes less sperm and infertility

Known causes of lower fertility include smoking, alcohol, little exercise, a poor diet or stress. But there is another cause that may be much less known. “The chemicals used in our environment and products,” Swan says. These substances are, for example, in packaging for food or in personal care products. According to research, these chemicals, which affect our hormones, are in almost everything.

“Certain layers that we put on products are worrying. Think of non-stick coatings or a waterproof layer on a jacket," says the scientist. “Others are the chemicals that make plastic soft. Also called phthalates.” Phthalates are found in plastic bottles, cosmetics and products with fragrance. According to Swan, these chemicals reduce testosterone and even have an effect in early stages of pregnancy.

 Fertility says a lot about your longevity

A low amount of testosterone affects the anatomical development of a baby. And can lead to a smaller genital area in men. “These men also have fewer sperm cells as they get older. In addition, this can cause problems in the genital tract or increase the risk of prostate cancer.” The conclusion is therefore that fertility problems in a person can already arise in the womb.

The quality of sperm in men shows much more besides fertility. Low sperm count is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and ultimately your longevity. Weak sperm also increases the risk of miscarriage. Swan: “The blame is often placed on the woman. But it is a shared responsibility.”

 Healthy lifestyle remedy for fertility crisis

But it is not yet lost. A healthy lifestyle promotes sperm quality. For men, some changes to their lifestyle can be very effective. In addition, research shows that the chemicals quickly disappear from our body (if you do not continue to supplement them). "So if we are aware of what we put in our body and counteract it, our body quickly clears it," says the scientist.

Finally, Swan says that we need to be much more critical of our living environment and the use of chemicals. According to her, fertility and living conditions are inextricably linked. “We are in a crisis, a serious situation.”