WWF say study of semen levels proves impact of endocrine disrupters

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is drawing attention to Danish research into male sperms counts in an effort to create greater urgency for EU policy efforts to control endocrine disrupters.

“We found out about the research when it was referred to at a public hearing at the European Parliament,” a WWF spokesperson told edie, discussing the research published in the February edition of Human Reproduction journal. “We realised that it was clearly relevant to the endocrine disrupter debate.”

WWF is critical of the European Commission’s attempts thus far to draft an endocrine disrupter strategy (see related story). The organisation presented its final comments on the draft strategy in mid-April. In its letter to EC Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, WWF says that it is “vital to take immediate action to reduce human and wildlife exposure to known endocrine disrupting chemicals [EDCs]” and that it “is disappointed that the Strategy does not address this”.

The draft strategy proposes research, but no action to reduce exposure to known EDCs.

A lack of funding is also delaying work on EDCs, argues WWF. It criticises the EC’s downsizing of the list of chemicals it will investigate for endocrine-disrupting effects from an initial list of 500 to just over 30 chemicals in total.

The Danish research which has caught WWF’s eye was published under the title High frequency of sub-optimal semen quality in an unselected population of young men. The semen quality of young Danish men, all of whom must present themselves for medical examination to determine military fitness, was studied from 1996-1998, and results have shown that a high number showed lower than expected sperm counts. The Danish researchers concluded that “surprisingly low sperm counts were found” and that “in fact, more than 40% of young adult Danish men have sperm counts … that are associated with decreased fertility”.

Although the researchers stated that the reasons for the low sperm counts recorded were “obscure and need to be explored”, WWF believes that exposure to EDCs must be a factor. “EDCs got to be a factor at the very least and the EDCs strategy is very weak at the moment,” says WWF’s statement.

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