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Besides harming organisms and ecosystems, this new study shows that industrial chemicals are also impacting human fertility.Shanna Swan is the senior author of a 2017 study that documented a dramatic drop in sperm counts in Western countries over the past half-century.⁠

That meta-analysis of 185 studies involving 42,935 men found that total sperm count fell 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist, pointed to the role of environmental chemicals in that trend.⁠

Swan has now written “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race,” a book that ties industrial chemicals in everyday products to a wide range of changes taking place in recent years, including increasing numbers of babies born with smaller penises; higher rates of erectile dysfunction; declining fertility; eroding sex differences in some animal species; and potentially even behaviors that are thought of as gender-typical.⁠

The chemical exposures described by Swan in her new book can impact generations, as she explained in an interview with The Intercept: ⁠

The Intercept: Can you explain how a person’s grandchildren might also be affected by their exposures?⁠

Swan: Grandchildren are easy to explain. If you’re pregnant, and you’re carrying a boy, the chemicals you’re exposed to can pass to him through the placenta. So the germ cells that will create his children are already affected. Plus that boy is exposed to chemicals again as an adult. It’s a two-hit model. Or, for subsequent generations, a three-hit or four-hit model. Because you get the inherited contribution, and then you get your own life course contribution when you grow up.⁠

The Intercept: How does that end?⁠

Swan: Badly.⁠

Read the full interview: interc.pt/3sXDr1P

Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP

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Tickets are now on sale for our virtual High Plains Landscape Workshop! 🌱🌿

Join us for a keynote by Nan Sterman, Waterwise Gardener on planting a colorful, waterwise garden as well as eight breakout sessions on sustainable practices! 💦💦💦

Tickets are only $35 each and available at fcgov.com/gardens

Thanks to our generous sponsors including Fort Collins Nursery, Rain Bird, City of Fort Collins - Government Nature in the City, Lindgren Landscape, Northern Water, Audubon Rockies, PlantSelect and People and Pollinators Action Network.

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