Three sunscreen tubes isolated on whiteCommon chemicals found in sunscreen may adversely affect male fertility, specifically sperm movement. A new European study reveals that a common ingredient in sunscreen, 4-MBC (4-methylbenzylidene camphor), which serves as an ultraviolet filter, can inhibit the ability of the man’s sperm to swim.

How Does 4-MBC Affect Sperm?

The study identified three common chemicals used in household products like sunscreen that can inhibit the sperm’s ability to swim. Triclosan, oxybenzone and 4-MBC are three endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that were named specifically as having this effect.

Male fertility is measured by looking at three different areas for sperm health: Motility, morphology and sperm count. Motility is how a sperm moves. Morphology refers to the shape of the sperm themselves and the total count of sperm present in the sample.

An endocrine disrupter is a chemical that can interfere with the natural process of hormones. This interference often has a direct effect on human reproductive health. The new research ties the interference with sperm function — more specifically, its ability to fertilize an egg. Researchers say that their findings show how these EDCs change the sperm’s ability to swim and navigate, as well as impair the ability to penetrate the protective membrane around the egg.

The research, which was released from the Advanced European Studies and Research located in Germany and also from the University Department of Growth and Reproduction in Denmark, definitively links EDCs to this impairment. The results were published in the Journal of EMBO reports.

How Can You Avoid These EDCs?

The damaging rays of the sun are clearly a concern, but for men who are trying to conceive, so is the health of their swimmers. Here are some ways that you can limit your exposure to these harmful yet common household chemicals:

  • Choose organically grown food over conventionally grown to limit exposure to the chemical that is also found in pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Eat fresh, not fast to limit the amount of processed food that you ingest.
  • Look for natural rather than chemical-based products for use on your skin, including sunblock, lotion, shaving cream and more.
  • Avoid using cheap plastics in general, as these are common ingredients in the less expensive plastic industry.

Sperm typically take up to three months to form. For men who are thinking of trying to conceive, limiting exposure to these chemicals will help the health of their sperm in a few months. For those already trying to conceive, limiting exposure today is the quickest way to generate healthier sperm.

Male fertility health is dependent on the production of healthy sperm that can swim to the egg and penetrate the egg’s membrane for fertilization. When sperm function is impaired, it results in a diagnosis of male infertility. Limiting exposure to harmful chemicals like the ultraviolet light filter 4-MBC found in sunscreen is a great way to ensure that your sperm are at their best when the time comes for you to begin working on your family building dreams.


Juntti, Melaina. “Common Household Products Can Impact Sperm Function.” 23 May 2014. Web. 10 July 2014. <>

“Toothpaste, sunscreen chemicals ‘interfere with sperm function.” 12 May 2014. Web. 10 July 2014. <>