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A new study confirms that residues on fruit and vegetables negatively impact male fertility.

Men who eat more than 1.5 servings of fruits and vegetables containing higher levels of pesticide residue have 49 percent lower sperm count, and 32 percent lower percentage of normal sperm, than men who eat less than half a serving daily. Moreover, they also had a lower sperm count, lower ejaculate volume, and lower percentage of normal sperm.

These are the findings of a new study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – the first to investigate the connection between exposure to pesticide residues in produce and semen quality.

Data analysed from 155 men enrolled in the ongoing Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study included 338 semen samples provided between 2007 and 2012, and validated survey information regarding participants’ diets. Fruits and vegetables were classified according to the levels of pesticides present, using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program. The researchers then adjusted for factors known to impact sperm quality – notably BMI and smoking – and looked for connections between the men's intake of produce with pesticide residue and the quality of their sperm.

Numerous studies have shown that eating conventionally farmed produce leads to measurable pesticide levels in urine, while others have identified links between occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides and lower semen quality. Some research has linked pesticide residues in food to health effects, but none have looked at the effects on semen quality.

Diana Barnett is the director of SevenCanaries (www.sevencanaries.com.au), a marketplace and information resource for allergy-free and non-toxic living.