Newly identified chemicals in the water supply could potentially be causing fertility problems in men, according to British scientists.
A group of chemicals known as anti-androgens have been discovered by researchers at Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
These pollutants – which enter the water supply from discarded medicines, pharmaceutical treatments and agricultural pesticides – may be capable of having a feminizing effect on male fish, the scientists say.
In previous studies, the same teams had demonstrated how estrogens and estrogen-mimicking chemicals cause reproductive problems in male fish.
Now, they suggest the anti-androgens may also be contributing to the hormone disruption in fish. Additionally, they say the chemicals could potentially be linked to a male fertility problem called testicular dysgenesis syndrome.
Senior author Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter said the study draws attention to "the cocktail of chemicals" in the water supply which may harm reproduction.
"There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one previously unknown factor," he added.