Are young men today less fertile than their fathers were?

That was the hot question under debate at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual conference last week. Some health experts argued that men today are facing a "sperm crisis" with sperm counts that have been decreasing for at least the last decade.

A recent study in France found that the sperm concentration of men decreased by nearly one-third between 1989 and 2005. This follows the findings of several other European health studies that have found that over the past 15 years or so, the sperm counts of healthy men ages 18 to 25 have significantly decreased. 

Europe is not alone. In the U.S., some historical data suggest a decrease in sperm count among American men. But to date, no studies have confirmed this theory one way or the other.

If there is a sperm crisis, as many health experts believe, it goes beyond implications of male fertility. Sperm counts could be an overall indicator of a man's health, and a low sperm count could be caused by or linked to a whole host of health implications.

Possible causes suggested for the sperm crisis include exposure to pesticides or chemicals such as BPA, lifestyle changes in which men sit more than in decades past, obesity, drug and alcohol use, or even the chemicals and toxins that men are exposed to in the womb as babies. 

[via the Wall Street Journal]