Radiation Exposure and Sperm: Basics Every Man Should Know

You light up my sperm? What a man should know if contemplating fatherhood.

Male fertility depends on healthy sperm. Just as there are ways a man can enable optimum sexual fitness via diet (what’s good for the heart is often good for a man’s libido) and erectile supplements for example, we are now more keenly aware of how certain toxins can permanently alter sperm production and function. The recent disasters around the globe, particularly the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan, highlights how these forces often out of our individual control.  With concerns of radiation exposure on the top of people’s minds, we at Greenprophet.com want to offer basics every man in the Middle East should know with regards to radiation exposure and his sexual health.

To impregnate his partner, a man’s body must produce appropriate levels of testosterone and other hormones involved in the production of sperm in the testicles. There has to be enough sperm, carried via semen, to be ejaculated out of the penis. And the motility and morphology of sperm must be such that they can reach and penetrate a woman’s ova. It should be noted that globally, sperm counts have been declining. Greenprophet.com reported on the forty percent decline in sperm count among Israelis, attributing these changes to cell phone use and hormone exposure. A low sperm count is considered fewer than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen.

What about environmental elements that can harm sperm?

The Mayo Health Clinic sites heat, toxins and chemicals as common sources of concern.

  • Pesticides. Some men exposed to pesticides such as ethylene dibromide and organophosphates have lowered sperm counts. Pesticide exposure has also been linked to testicular cancer. Most studies have been done on men who work in agriculture or live in agricultural areas.
  • Heavy metal exposure. Exposure to lead or other heavy metals also may cause infertility.
  • Exposure to radiation or X-rays. Exposure to radiation can reduce sperm production. It can take several years for sperm production to return to normal. With high doses of radiation, sperm production can be permanently reduced.
  • Overheating the testicles. Frequent use of saunas or hot tubs may temporarily lower your sperm count. Sitting for long periods or wearing tight clothing also may increase the temperature in your scrotum and reduce sperm production.
  • Prolonged bicycling. Prolonged bicycling is another possible cause of reduced fertility due to overheating the testicles. In some cases, bicycle seat pressure on the area behind the testicles (perineum) can cause numbness in the penis and erectile dysfunction.

It’s the third item on that list raising questions these days. According to the Health Physics Society, a USA-based scientific organization comprised of 6000 professionals members who specialize in radiation safety, the common concern about testicular radiation exposure is birth defects.

Referencing to large population studies, one of which looked at thousands of patients who were exposed to radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “after 50 years of studying this population, there has been no demonstrable increase in genetic disease. What was learned is that the risk is extremely small and that you need very large populations to demonstrate this risk. In other words, the risk from the radiation is too small to be detected amid the spontaneous incidence of mutations and the hereditary component of mutations that may affect the offspring.”

The National Cancer Institute in the United States has studied thousands of male patients exposed to radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment. “ Families of these individuals also have not demonstrated an increase in birth defects or miscarriage.” Still, the author cautions that infertility or sterility may occur after exposure, though birth defects are unlikely.

“Studies of the atomic bomb survivors indicate even in the high-exposure group that there is not an increased incidence of chromosome abnormalities or genetic disease in the next generation. That is also the case for studies from the National Cancer Institute, which indicate that patients who had cancer and received chemotherapy and radiation did not have an increased incidence in genetic disease or birth defects in the next generation, although they did have problems with infertility.”

They advise men who’ve had even diagnostic exposures to radiation “to wait for at least two spermatogenesis cycles, which is about four months” before attempting to impregnate their partner. It takes approximately 48 days for new sperm cells to form, and 14 days for them to reach maturation. In general, the more frequently a man ejaculates, including via masturbation, the more efficient his sperm-production will be.

In previous articles, we discussed the risks of exposure to toxins on a man’s sperm and offspring that suggest even small changes in diet can have long-term deleterious consequences.

For specifics from the Health Physics Society on the Japanese fukushima reactor, visit their site.

:: Mayo Clinic and Robert Brent, MD, PhD, Health Physics Society

More eco-sexuality news:

Israeli Sperm Count Drops a Whopping Forty Percent

Can a Male Birth Control Pill Save the Environment?

Do These Fats Make My Love Handle Look Big? Eco-Sexy Nutrition for a Man’s Erection

Tinamarie is a regular contributor to Greenprophet.com. Follow her @ModernLoveMuse. She blogs at www.tinamariebernard.com.

Image via bhav.bhav.

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