By Ofri Ilani
May 11, 2009
The quality of Israeli sperm has declined alarmingly in the last decade, according to recent research conducted at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus.
The cause for the decline is not known, but it’s believed by some researchers to be connected to the exposure of children and pregnant women to hormones and other contaminants in food and water.
Conducted by Dr. Ronit Haimov-Kokhman, the study showed a 40-percent decline in the concentration of sperm cells among the country’s sperm donors from 2004 to 2008, compared to those of donors from 1995 to 1999. Hadassah’s sperm bank is now turning away two-thirds of potential donors because of low-quality sperm, as opposed to one-third in the past.
Haimov-Kokhman’s research is to be presented today at a conference of the Israeli Society of Fertility Investigation in Tel Aviv.
Kokhman said the study was carried out to test the theory of the director of Hadassah Hospital’s sperm bank, Ruth Har-Nir, that sperm quality was in decline.
The research confirmed that in 10 years, the average concentration of sperm among donors declined from 106 million cells per cubic centimeter to 67 million per cubic centimeter. The rate of sperm motility has also declined: from 79 to 67 percent, although the profile of donors did not change over that period; they are still young, healthy and do not smoke.
According to Haimov-Kokhman, the quality of sperm has declined in most Western countries, but in Israel it has been particularly rapid.
“If we keep going at this rate, a decline of 3 million cubic centimeters of sperm cells per year, we’ll reach an average of 20 million in 2030. The World Heath Organization defines this as fertility impairment.”
Studies showing a decline in sperm quality began to be published worldwide more than a decade ago, along with research indicating a rise in the rate of defects in the male reproductive system.
In Israel, too, a study was published about a year ago, showing an increase of about 30 percent in defects in the male reproductive system. In addition, in the past decade, the number of cases of testicular cancer has doubled.