Declining sperm counts blamed on dioxins

The exposure of young boys to dioxin pollution from industrial and other sources could be responsible for the widespread decline in sperm counts in developed countries, researchers from Italy and the US have concluded.

The mystery of men’s declining fertility over the past 50 years may have been solved, Italian and US scientists claim. Their study of men contaminated by dioxins following a 1976 chemical explosion in Seveso, Italy, has shed light on the complex effects of the pollutants on the human reproductive system.1 The work suggests dioxin exposure may have lowered the fertility of generations of men.

On 10 July 1976 a trichlorophenol reactor at a chemical factory in a small town north of Milan exploded. A cloud of pollution containing 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the most toxic dioxin, contaminated thousands of people over an area of six square kilometres.

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