Sunscreen and other everyday items could be damaging male fertility, a scientist has warned.
He claims potentially dangerous chemicals in everything from waterproof jackets to car dashboards and frying pans are poisoning men's chances of fatherhood.
Just one in four men now has good quality sperm and male fertility is declining across Europe, the new analysis shows. For more than one man in seven the problem is so acute that he would need fertility treatment to start a family, the scientists claimed.
Niels Jorgensen, a Danish researcher, believes that much of the blame lies with the cocktail of chemicals that surrounds us in everyday life. Fatty food and watching television are also said to affect fertility. "Modern life is having an impact," he said.
Dr Jorgensen is advising men to stop wearing sunscreen and says pregnant women should avoid make-up and sun cream as they could be harming their unborn baby boys.
He made the controversial recommendations after reviewing more than 70 years of research on male fertility at a leading European conference.
Dr Jorgensen has calculated that just 25 per cent of European men have good quality sperm. He believes that up to 15 per cent of men would need fertility treatment if they want to start a family.
Sperm counts have fallen by at least a quarter in Denmark since the 1940s. France, Spain and Finland have also seen drops. In Liverpool, counts halved between the 1930s and 1970s.
Today, around one in seven couples in the UK has trouble conceiving, and although infertility is traditionally thought of as a female issue the problem is as likely to lie with the man as the woman. Experts believe that the trend for women to delay motherhood is exacerbating the issue, because it leads to females with fast-declining fertility are trying to have babies with men who have low sperm counts.
Dr Jorgensen told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual conference in Lisbon that the cocktail of chemicals in everyday items is a significant factor in the decline in male fertility.
Suspect substances include phthalates, which are found in PVC flooring, shower curtains and car dashboards, and PFCs, "extremely harmful" chemicals found in non-stick pots and pans and waterproof outdoor jackets.
However, the Copenhagen University researcher believes that many other chemicals may be damaging. They include some found in make-up and sunscreen.
It is thought unborn boys are particularly at risk. If chemicals pass to them in the womb, they could damage the development of their reproductive system leading to problems with sperm production as an adult.
Dr Chris Flower, of the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, said that Dr Jorgensen did not have any firm evidence and the EU had strict rules on the safety of chemicals.
"Not to wear sunscreen is an outrageous piece of advice because we know the risks of sun damage," he said. "To frighten pregnant women about non-existent dangers of cosmetics is equally irresponsible."
- Daily Mail