The average man’s sperm count in France has dropped significantly in recent years, and now experts are wondering if the wine industry could be to blame.
According to The Local, a 2012 study shows that French men’s sperm count dropped by about a third between 1989 and 2005. A recent follow-up study shows the most extreme drops in sperm count occurred in Aquitaine and the Midi-Pyrénées. Those are both significant wine-producing regions, the former responsible for the production of France’s prized Bordeaux wines.
In spite of the lowered sperm counts, researchers say men in those regions did not seem less healthy than men in other areas. Rates of obesity and alcohol and tobacco consumption were similar to those of men in neighboring regions, so researchers think it might have something to do with the wine production.
All the wine producing in those areas means they are also home to large numbers of farm workers, and researchers say exposure to pesticides during the wine-growing process could be a likely suspect in decreasing sperm rates. According to the scientists, the chemicals in pesticides can disrupt hormones, which can have a negative effect on sperm production.
"Wine cultivation is the activity that uses the most pesticides in proportion to the agricultural area," said researcher Joëlle Le Moal, who worked on the study. "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."
The researchers pointed out that men in the wine-producing regions of Burgundy and the Loire Valley, however, do not show quite as significant a drop in sperm count as those in Aquitaine and the Midi-Pyrénées.