The human skin is the largest organ in the body. It plays a very crucial role of protecting the rest of the body’s systems from microbes and other harmful elements. Furthermore, it helps regulate the body’s temperature, and allows the sensations of touch, cold, and heat. It is for this very reason that skin should be kept healthy and intact. One of the most harmful elements that can damage the human skin is its exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
One of the ways to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun is through the use of sunscreens. Thus, men and women alike, make it a habit to use sunscreens when going outdoors where sun is at its peak. As what their name imply, sunscreens block the sun’s ultraviolet rays from penetrating into one’s skin, and cause skin diseases such as skin cancer. However, little did these people know that these products may affect fertility and their capability to bear a child? On that account, people using sunscreen ultraviolet filters may expect delays in becoming pregnant.
The National Institute of Health conducted a clinical study, which aims to examine and explain the connection between fertility, lifestyle factors and exposure to several environmental chemicals. The study was performed among 501 couples who were trying to conceive a child. These participants were recruited from 16 counties in Texas and Michigan in 2005 until 2009. The women’s ages ranged from 18 to 44 years old. On the other hand, their husbands’ age ran from 19 years old and above. The participating couples were tested for infertility issues prior to the research. Results showed that none of the participants had a medical diagnosis of infertility.
Moreover, the participants were observed and interviewed for about a year while they were trying to conceive. The researchers took notes on particular data, such as the time it took the women to conceive a child. Furthermore, they also obtained urine samples and tested them for concentrations of selected UV filters. These UV filters are said to have linked to endocrine-disturbing activity that may be the cause of delay in pregnancy. The researchers also controlled several factors that may influence the findings including age, body mass index, smoking, and others.
According to the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center and the National Institutes of Health, it was found out that while sunscreen has been very useful in protecting individuals from the harmful rays of the sun, some of its chemical components may impair a man’s capability to fertilize an egg cell. However, researchers stated that further studies are needed to supplement their findings.
The study merely focused on the investigation of the chemical Benzophenone (BP)-type UV filters. These filters include more or less 29 chemicals commonly used in sunscreens and other personal care products to protect the skin and hair from damages that may be caused by too much sun exposure. Their findings showed that some of the UV filters are linked to diminished* fertility in men. These UV filters men were exposed to were specifically the BP-2 or 4OH-BP. These chemicals are believed to interfere with the body’s hormones and the endocrine system processes. Men with high exposures to UV filters, particularly 4OH-BP or BP-2, had a 30% decrease* in his capability to reproduce. As a long term consequence, men make it hard to impregnate women.
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According to Germaine Louis, Ph.D., the study conducted showed that men are more susceptible to the chemicals, Benzophenone (BP)-type UV filters than women. She added that despite women having greater exposure compared to that of men, there was no significant pregnancy delays associated with female fecundity. She also explained that their next step would include figuring out how the chemicals may be affecting fertility and the time it takes for women to become pregnant. Germaine Louis, Ph.D. emphasized that indeed sunscreens are important, especially when it comes to taking care of the body’s largest organ, the skin. However, for men who want to have children, this poses a dilemma. She suggested that they could, in the meantime, try alternative skin care methods, or by washing off the UV filters immediately upon arriving indoors.
The research team also emphasized that the study has limitations, and therefore, findings are not totally conclusive. They stressed that the urine sample collection and testing were just done once to test the chemical exposure. Moreover, the levels of exposure were not controlled, thus it may have varied and could have changed over time. In addition, the team also did not have the brands and the details about the products specifically used by the participants during the course of the research.
Despite the limitation of this research, the study was able to prove that indeed products containing Benzophenone (BP)-type UV filters can affect male fertility. Although, skin protection is as important as fertility, men are being advised to either avoid using these products or at least minimize their exposure. With this, it may increase* the odds of having a child sooner.