A Healthier Tomorrow – The Future of Fertility
Imagine a Healthier Tomorrow
By Alison H. Page
Have you heard the rumor? You know, the one that the COVID-19 vaccine could make you infertile? I have. I hear it every day. Fortunately, it is not true. But fertility is declining, and alarming research is revealing the facts about why. In this month’s column we will discuss what we know and what we can do now to ensure the fertility of future generations.
First, a few words about the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, there is no evidence showing that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. This concern stems from information that protein called syncytin-1, which is found in the placenta in mammals, shares similar genetic instruction with part of the COVID-19 spike protein. Some speculate that if the vaccine causes the body to produce antibodies against the spike protein, it will also cause it to produce antibodies to syncytin-1, leading to infertility. Currently, there is no evidence to support this theory. Neither COVID-19 mRNA vaccines contain syncytin-1, nor does the mRNA used in the vaccines encode for syncytin-1. In addition, the spike protein formed as a result of vaccination with either COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and syncytin-1 are structurally very dissimilar. No data indicates the antibodies formed as a result of COVID-19 mRNA vaccination target syncytin-1.
In addition, the COVID-19 virus itself has not appeared to affect female fertility. In a recent WebMD interview, Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said there is no evidence that this pandemic has changed fertility patterns…” and “If natural infection doesn’t alter fertility, why would a vaccine do it?” For more information go to www.icsi.org/covid-19-vaccine-faq/.
But there are very good reasons to be concerned about both male and female infertility in our society. Shanna H. Swan, PhD, a scientist based at Mt. Sinai in New York, and one of the leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists in the world, has just published a book on the topic called “Count Down.” Based on her research, Dr. Swan calculated that between 1973 and 2011 the sperm count of average men in Western countries had fallen by 59%. Now, that will keep you up at night. There are also other changes occurring. Infant boys are developing more genital abnormalities; more girls are experiencing early puberty; and adult women appear to be suffering declining egg quality and more miscarriages. It is not just happening to humans. The research on animals is equally alarming.
Nickolas Kristof, a columnist with the New York Times, recently summarized the findings of Dr. Swan and other experts. The problem is a class of chemicals called endocrine disrupters, which mimic the body’s hormones and thus fool our cells. This is a particular problem for fetuses as they sexually differentiate early in pregnancy. Endocrine disrupters can wreak reproductive havoc.
Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that are present everywhere: plastics, shampoos, cosmetics, cushions, pesticides, canned foods and ATM receipts. They aren’t identified on labels and difficult to avoid completely. Europe and Canada have moved to regulate the use of endocrine disrupters, but the US has not. Major professional organizations such as the Endocrine Society and the Pediatric Endocrine Society are warning against the use of endocrine disrupters.
So, why are they being used? Remember how the tobacco companies had the research in hand that proved cigarettes will kill you, but they sold them anyway with nothing on the label indicating how harmful they were? Remember how Exxon, Texaco and Shell oil companies were all aware of the research showing the possible impact of their products on the production of greenhouse gasses and future climate change, but did nothing to change course? Well, that is what is currently happening with endocrine disrupters.
What can we do? First, we can expect our government agencies to provide protection from exposure to dangers like endocrine disrupters, much like we have done to regulate the use of DDT. Second, we can make changes in our own lives to reduce risk of exposure to endocrine disrupters. Here are things we can do.
- Avoid plastic. Store food in glass containers, not plastic. Above all, do not microwave food in plastic, or with plastic wrap on top (the heat causes the release of endocrine disrupters from the plastic). Use a cotton or linen shower curtain, not one made of vinyl.
- Avoid pesticides.
- Avoid tobacco and marijuana.
- Do not use air fresheners.
- Prevent dust buildup. Vet consumer products you use with an online guide like that of the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org.
Let’s do what we can to ensure a healthier tomorrow for future generations!