REAL Women has expressed many times its concerns about Canada’s falling birth rate and the discouraging consequences it will bring to our nation’s future.
REAL Women has pointed out the problem, which seems to stem from a change in the culture, whereby work has become the priority over marriage and family. In short, individuals seem to be increasingly assessing work as the source of value and meaning in their lives. This occurs especially in wealthy countries where many individuals now see their identity in terms of the work place rather than within their family. This creates a vicious circle because if work becomes a replacement for family an identity crisis can occur if one loses a job or upon retirement. The crisis then worsens if one has no family for support at such transformative and sensitive times.
Solving such a cultural problem takes time, and this may not occur quickly enough to solve our low birth rate.
There are two other, strong possibilities contributing to the low birth rate. The global fertility rate in males dropped 59% between 1973 and 2011. Science, therefore, is correctly shifting its focus toward men, as more couples are suffering from the infertility caused by dropping sperm counts. Infant boys are also developing more genital abnormalities and testosterone levels are decreasing each year.
A 2006 study showed that 65 year old men in 2002 had testosterone levels 15% lower than 65 year old men in 1987. A 2020 study, published in the Urology Times Journal, Volume 48, No. 7, reported a similar drop in young adults and adolescents.
One factor may be the presence in our water system of estrogen hormones resulting from the use of the oral contraceptive pill and other drugs. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey tested water in the U.S. to find that 85 man-made chemicals, including medications, were commonly slipping through municipal treatment systems and ending up in the tap water. Such chemicals and medications are extremely diluted, but it is known that even extremely diluted concentrations of drug residues harm fish, frogs, and other aquatics species, and have been shown in labs to also impair human cell function. Tests have shown, especially, that estrogen in the water can wreak reproductive havoc in some fish, which spawn infertile offspring sporting a mixture of male and female parts.
Removing traces of birth control compounds and other drugs out of our water systems has proven elusive for municipal filtration plants. However, in 2020, German researchers finally succeeded in removing more than 99% of steroid hormones from water using an improved activated carbon water filtration system. This breakthrough was made by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of technology. (See Water Research 2020. Access the abstract via https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2020.116249)
A second source of the male fertility problem may be the prevalence of a class of endocrine disrupters known as phthalates which mimic the body’s hormones. Phthalates are synthetic chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and harder to break. The chemical is everywhere, not just in plastics, but in shampoos, cosmetics, furniture flame retardants, pesticides, fast food packaging, paper plates, stain resistant household products, etc. All have been linked to lower semen quality, testicular volume, and genital abnormalities in males.
It seems clear that endocrine disrupters used in our everyday life must be researched and removed in order to pin down the alarming decrease in male fertility. Infertility is not only detrimental to our nation, but is also causing much personal suffering for infertile couples.