A study has raised questions as to whether the use of pesticides in the production of wine could be to blame for a drop in French men’s sperm count.
French men’s sperm count was found to have dropped by about a third from 1989 to 2005, and now results from a new study, which involved 26,000 men, has raised questions as to whether wine may in part be to blame, according to a report in The Local.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Institut de Veille Sanitaire, shows how the steepest drops in sperm quality were found in the regions of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées in south-western France – two centres for French wine production, notably Bordeaux.
Researchers said these two regions were home to some of country’s largest number of farm workers who were most likely to have been exposed to pesticides which researchers say are to blame for the decline in sperm quality as the chemicals can disrupt men’s hormones and interrupt sperm production.
While this recent study is concerned with the production of wine and the use of pesticides, another study found that men who drank wine up to three times a week actually had stronger sperm.
Dr. Joëlle Le Moal, researcher at the Institut de Veille Sanitaire, told The Local: “Wine cultivation is the activity that uses the most pesticides in proportion to the agricultural area. In these two regions there could be a local contributor due to the pesticides they use in wine cultivation, because this kind of production uses so much.”
From the late 1980s to the mid-2000s men in Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées also had a lower than average number of properly shaped sperm cells, while over the same period regions like Franche-Comté and Brittany saw an increase.
As there were no obvious health problems in the men of both south-western French regions that would help explain the gap, researchers have pointed toward the use of pesticides.
However despite suggestions that pesticides used in two of the most acutely affected areas could be the cause, other famous wine growing regions like Burgundy and the Loire Valley in central France do not seem to be as affected by the drop in sperm quality, challenging the study’s assumptions.
While the cause may not be absolute, Le Moal stressed to The Local that researchers felt the study constituted a “public health warning”, because “sperm quality is co-related to life expectancy”, but said that more research was needed.