Scientists Say American Sperm Counts Are on the Decline

Sérgio Valle Duarte
, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
IMAGE CREDIT: Sérgio Valle Duarte , Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Concerned scientists say the sperm count of men in Western nations has dropped significantly since the 1970s, a change that may signify underlying public health issues. They described their findings in the journal Human Reproductive Update.

The international team of researchers analyzed data from 185 studies of semen samples collected from 1973 to 2011. The 42,935 donors hailed from 50 countries, which the scientists divided into two groups: "Western," including North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand; and "Other," including South America, Asia, and Africa.

At first glance, the results are both concerning and surprising. The last 40 years seem to have seen a slow but significant sperm slump among American and other Western men. The studies recorded an average annual decrease of 1.6 percent, yielding a total loss of 59.3 percent over the 38-year study period.

The same could not be said for men in the "Other" group, whose sperm count appeared to experience no significant change.

The authors of the current paper seem alarmed by their own findings.

"The fact that the decline is seen in Western countries strongly suggests that chemicals in commerce are playing a causal role in this trend," co-author Shanna Swan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told New Scientist.

Swan and her colleagues did not look into any possible causes of the decrease but believe it could be a sign of overall declining health in the West.

"A decline in sperm count might be considered as a 'canary in the coal mine' for male health across the lifespan," they write. "Our report of a continuing and robust decline should, therefore, trigger research into its causes, aiming for prevention."

But before we all freak out, it's important to consider other elements that could be influencing these results. First, the sperm samples were not distributed evenly across all 50 nations. Only 16 percent of samples came from North America, and there were far fewer studies on the "Other" group overall; it's possible that sperm populations in South America, Asia, and Africa are experiencing the same slow decline.

Second, these studies measured sperm count—not sperm quality.

Third, and most importantly, even with the decrease, the global average sperm count remains within normal range. While a downturn means that more men's count may fall beneath ideal levels, we’re hardly facing a worldwide sperm shortage. Let's take this situation one drop at a time.

This Gorgeous Vintage Edition of Clue Sets the Perfect Mood for a Murder Mystery

WS Game Company
WS Game Company

Everyone should have a few good board games lying around the house for official game nights with family and friends and to kill some time on the occasional rainy day. But if your collection leaves a lot to be desired, you can class-up your selection with this great deal on the Vintage Bookshelf Edition of Clue for $40.

A brief history of Clue

'Clue' Vintage Bookshelf Edition.
WS Game Company.

Originally titled Murder!, Clue was created by a musician named Anthony Pratt in Birmingham, England, in 1943, and he filed a patent for it in 1944. He sold the game to Waddington's in the UK a few years later, and they changed the name to Cluedo in 1949 (that name was a mix between the words clue and Ludo, which was a 19th-century game.) That same year, the game was licensed to Parker Brothers in the United States, where it was published as Clue. Since then, there have been numerous special editions and spinoffs of the original game, not to mention books and a television series based on it. Most notably, though, was the cult classic 1985 film Clue, which featured Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren.

As you probably know, every game of Clue begins with the revelation of a murder. The object of the game is to be the first person to deduce who did it, with what weapon, and where. To achieve that end, each player assumes the role of one of the suspects and moves strategically around the board collecting clues.

With its emphasis on logic and critical thinking—in addition to some old-fashioned luck—Clue is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time and evolved with each decade, with special versions of the game hitting shelves recently based on The Office, Rick and Morty, and Star Wars.

Clue Vintage Bookshelf Edition

'Clue' Vintage Library Edition.
WS Game Company

The Vintage Bookshelf Edition of Clue is the work of the WS Game Company, a licensee of Hasbro, and all the design elements are inspired by the aesthetic of the 1949 original. The game features a vintage-looking game board, cards, wood movers, die-cast weapons, six pencils, an ivory-colored die, an envelope, and a pad of “detective notes.” And, of course, everything folds up and stores inside a beautiful cloth-bound book box that you can store right on the shelf in your living room.

Clue Vintage Bookshelf Edition is a limited-release item, and right now you can get it for $40.

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How to Make Wearing a Face Mask More Comfortable During the Warm, Sweaty Summer Months

Cloth face masks can make for a sweaty summer.
Cloth face masks can make for a sweaty summer.
elladoro/iStock via Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge the world’s population to rethink everyday behaviors, it seems likely people will continue to practice both social distancing and the use of a cloth face mask throughout the summer. (Cloth masks can’t stop infectious particles from entering the nose and mouth, but they can reduce the spread of respiratory droplets by wearers.)

Once tolerable, these masks might grow to be uncomfortable as temperatures rise and the fabric begins to trap heat. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize discomfort.

According to health experts who spoke to writer Nick Vadala of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the best strategy for a heat-friendly face mask is to opt for a 100 percent cotton fabric. Polyester and other synthetic materials can trap heat, causing wearers to build up sweat and moisture around their face quickly.

You’ll want to avoid any kind of filter, which are also synthetic and make breathing more difficult.

Snug masks can also be harder to tolerate when it’s warm out. To adjust the fit, it’s better to use a mask that has ties rather than elastic straps, which can irritate the ears.

The biggest adjustment wearers may have to make in adhering to mask recommendations in the summer is to carry more than one. As masks get damp from sweat, they’ll need to be switched out for a dry one. You’ll want to be sure to do that only after washing or sanitizing your hands and making the switch away from other people.

Despite your best efforts, skin irritation might persist. It’s a good idea to use moisturizer to heal skin affected by trapped heat and moisture.

[h/t The Philadelphia Inquirer]