A number of harmful substances are known to adversely affect male sperm quality. According to recent studies, chemicals found in sunscreen can also contribute to decreased fertility in men.
This is the conclusion by Danish researchers who studied the UV filters contained in various sunscreens. According to the researchers, even small amounts of UV filters have adverse effects on male fertility. The scientists from the University of Copenhagen reported their findings at the annual conference of the Endocrine Society in Boston.
UV Filters and Male Infertility
Sunscreen contains chemical and mineral filter substances that protect the skin by absorbing or reflecting the sun’s radiation, thereby greatly reducing the amount of UV rays that penetrate the skin. The researchers led by Niels Skakkebaek tested the effect of 29 out of 31 sunscreens approved in the U.S. and Europe on male sperm by adding the chemical substances contained in the sunscreens to fresh semen samples. The result: 13 of the products tested caused a change in the sperm’s ion balance, which negatively affected the functionality of the sperm. The reason: In order to fertilize an egg, sperm must find the right way by following a corresponding attractant emitted by the egg. A certain scent triggers an increase in the sperm’s calcium concentration, which allows the sperm to swim twice as fast and turn in the right direction. However, the chemical substances in sunscreen cause a strong premature influx of calcium that normally doesn’t occur until the sperm has reached the egg. If this process takes place too early, the “calcium boost” necessary for fertilization is no longer possible. The researchers note that this disruption was observed even with just small doses of the chemicals. Earlier studies have shown that the skin absorbs some of the chemical UV filters, which can then be detected in the blood and urine. Scientists found that 9 of the 13 UV filters damage sperm by having a similar effect as the female sex hormone progesterone. According to Skakkebaek, this suggests that these UV filters are endocrine disruptors, or substances that act like hormones.
Further Research is Needed
Among the 13 harmful UV filters are the chemicals octyl salicylate, avobenzone, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone (or benzophenone-3) and padimate O—substances not only contained in sunscreen, but a variety of other cosmetic products. Skakkebaek and his team find these results worrisome and believe they could help shed light on why unexplained infertility is so widespread. The researchers strongly recommend that the responsible authorities examine the effects of UV filters contained in sunscreen in detail before approving them for use.