The study found the effect of chemicals that disrupt the body’s hormones, called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, may extend beyond more than one generation.
The research results will be presented on Monday at “ENDO 2018”, the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, in Chicago.
Lead author Radwa Barakat with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said:“sperm counts among men have dropped substantially over the last few decades, but the reason for such an alarming phenomenon is not known.
“These results suggest that when a mother is exposed to an endocrine disruptor during pregnancy, her son and the son’s future generations may suffer from decreased fertility or hormone insufficiency.”
The researchers studied the effect of the Di(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP), the most widely used endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can be found in a wide array of industrial and consumer products, including Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) piping and tubing, cosmetics, medical devices and plastic toys.
The study found that male mice exposed to DEHP prenatally had significantly less testosterone in their blood and fewer sperm in their semen.
Consequently, they lost fertility at an age when they normally would have been fertile.
“Most surprisingly, the male mice born to male mice that were exposed to DEHP also exhibited similar reproductive abnormalities, indicating prenatal exposure to DEHP can affect the fertility and reproductive capacity of more than one generation of offspring,” Barakat said.
“Therefore, DEHP may be a contributing factor to the decreased sperm counts and qualities in modern men compared to previous generations.”