The New York TimesThe New York Times

The Sperm-Count ‘Crisis’ Doesn’t Add Up

By Rachel E. Gross

04 Jun 2021 · 6 min read

Male scientists have long waxed poetic on the contents of their testes. “Sperm is a drop of brain,” wrote the ancient Greek writer Diogenes Laertius. Leonardo da Vinci drew the penis with a sperm duct that connected directly to the spinal cord. The 17th-century microscopist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek claimed that each sperm cell contained within it a folded-up human being waiting patiently to unfurl.

For nearly as long, scientists have fretted about sperm’s seemingly inevitable decline. Most recently, a series of alarming headlines — as well as a new book by an public health researcher at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York — warned that falling sperm counts might threaten the future of the human race. “It’s a global existential crisis,” said Shanna H. Swan, author of the book “Count Down.”

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