A newly released UMass Amherst study has made a connection between a common chemical found in shaving cream and sperm epigenetics. Richard Pilsner, the scientist who led the study, found that certain chemicals in products that fathers-to-be probably use daily may damage the quality — and count — of their sperm.
The chemicals, called phthalates, are in practically everything you could imagine, including shampoo, air fresheners, laundry detergent, insect repellent, shower curtains, raincoats, a car’s steering wheel, and water.
In their study, Pilsner and his team, in particular, were interested in phthalate exposure during the sperm maturation process. Sperm maturation is a process that takes 72 days, and researchers found that this near-three-month period is a time when an expectant father’s swimmers are particularly vulnerable to phthalates.
Per Men’s Health, phthalates affect a man’s sperm count by altering proteins that make up genetic material. Those attachments can negatively affect sperm and could potentially affect their viability. There’s still plenty of research to be done, however. While Pilsner and his researchers have determined where the phthalates have an effect, mostly in areas related to growth, development, and cellular function, they say it remains unclear the exact damage phthalates wage on sperm or their long-term effects.
Now, Pilsner’s study has only followed 48 couples so far, a small sample size. They still have many questions, including whether or not the use of phthalates effects the early development of children after birth. So don’t chuck out your mac and cheese just yet.