Male Fertility Decline – Are They an Endangered Species?

Male fertility decline has been happening ever since the 50s. So much so that the WHO (World Health Organization) had to lower the values for normal sperm count levels as otherwise most men would test infertile today.

Male fertility decline can partially be contributed to reproductive toxins found in personal care products and cosmetics.

Scientists have been studying the negative effects of phthalates such as DEHP and DBP for over twenty years. They found that these toxins are powerful reproductive and developmental toxicants. Which can contribute to a long list of birth defects and infertility. This applies in particular to male fertility.

According to Jane Houlihan from the Environmental Working Group the “FDA has taken no action to reduce the use of phthalates in cosmetics, drugs, and food packaging, despite mounting evidence showing that some people are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of phthalates.”

Researchers are linking male fertility decline and the following male fertility problems to reproductive toxins found in everyday products:

  • Dr. Swan from the University of Missouri warns that the average sperm counts in industrialized counties are declining at a rate of one percent each year! (Swan et al 2000)
  • US Centers for Disease Control reported an increase of cases of Hypospadias since about 1970. This is a physical deformity where the urethra opening occurs on the bottom of the penis instead of on the tip. (Paulozzi 1999)
  • US centers for Disease Control also reported an increase in undescended testes since the 1970s. Testicles should descend into the scrotum during pregnancy. In this case they don’t. Men born with this defect are at a higher risk of developing testicular and breast cancer. (Paulozzi 1999)
  • Testicular cancer is another condition which has been on the rise in the industrial countries since the 1980s and which scientists are linking to exposure to phthalates. (Toppari et al 19996 and Moline 2000)

The Toxic Trio

Scientists isolated three phthalates in particular which have been found to add to male fertility decline and harm the male reproductive system. They are:

  1. DBP – dibutyl phthalate
  2. BBzP – butylbenzyl phthalate
  3. DEHP – diethylhexyl phthalate

The most disturbing part is the lack of labeling. None of the well know 52 phthalate containing products tested in the lab listed the individual phthalates on their ingredient list.

Europe vs USA

Even though the cosmetics industry is largely unregulated European Union seems to have stricter laws than the US. This gap allows companies to reformulate their products for sale outside the EU. Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for safe Cosmetics – a consumer watchdog group lobbied Estee Lauder and other firms to meet the higher EU standards for the products they ship to the US. This is the reply she got:

“Europe is nuts. These products are fine. Don’t worry your pretty little head”.

I personally use and recommend certified organic cosmetics and personal care products which will not add to male fertility decline. I also made sure over 7 years ago that my husband too doesn’t use any phthalate containing products.

For even more information about male fertility decline and the negative effects of chemicals and endocrine disruptors on male fertility and female fertility see this article.

Share your thoughts with me! What is your take on phthalates and male fertility decline? Is your husband using commercial personal care products or is he informed about the dangers?


Houlihan J et al. Not Too Pretty: Phthalates, Beauty Products & the FDA. 2002. Environmental Working Group.

Mazzocchi S. What’s in your makeup?! New video by Annie Leonard shows the ‘toxic’ side of some cosmetics. 2010 July 22. NY Daily News.

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About the Author: Iva Keene MRMed. ND. - Natural Fertility Specialist

Iva Keene is co-founder, creator and award-winning author of the NFP Program and director of She holds a Bachelor Degree in Health Science in Naturopathy and a Master Degree in Reproductive Medicine. She has been a qualified and internationally accredited Naturopathic Physician for over 15 years. Since founding NFP in 2008, Iva’s articles, videos, guides, and reports have reached over 1.3 million people. Iva has dedicated her professional life to supporting couples on their path to parenthood with scientifically grounded information, protocols, and coaching around preconception care, natural infertility treatments, and integrative reproductive health.