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Written in association with Professor Oladapo Ashiru

I had gotten my girlfriend pregnant when I was a student at the university at the age of twenty. But not being in love with her, I wasn’t going to be “trapped into marriage” and persuaded her to get an abortion. When I graduated, I went to work in a paint manufacturing company and I met Sola two years later and fell in love. I would say it was love at first sight. We got married when I was 26 and she was 25 and I expected to have a football team of children. Four years went and we still hadn’t gotten pregnant. Like all men I believed that not getting pregnant was always the fault of the women and the fault was with Sola, my wife. I fully intended to be as supportive of her and sent her to an infertility clinic for treatment. I was astounded when all her tests came back normal apart from one of the reproductive hormones that were high and easily treated. The doctors then said I should also come for some tests.

It took Sola three months to get me to go. Finally, after all her pleading and crying, I relunctantly went to see her doctor feeling that it would be a complete waste of time. Of course I knew I could father a child as I had gotten my girlfriend pregnant at university! Imagine my astonishment when my test showed I has a sperm count of 7 million instead of the normal count of 60 million, which a man should have in order to get a woman pregnant without any problems. The doctor took my complete medical history and discovered that I was working in one of the paint manufacturing industries.

The doctor explained that the fumes generated in the manufacture of paints are very toxic to the sperm and destroys them, they advised me to stay away from work for a while. After returning to work, I was told to wear protective mask while at work. In addition, I was placed on medications and hormones to stimulate my sperm production. After 3 months treatment, my sperm concentration increased to 12 million and the doctors were able to help Sola and I get pregnant using the technique of Fallopian tube sperm perfusion. This is one of the assisted reproductive technologies (ART) used by the clinic. Sola had a baby boy exactly a year after that first visit. Apparently, there are many men like me working in hazardous occupations that have toxic materials that can destroy their male fertility. Such occupations and toxic materials include:

  • Paint fume from manufacturing.
  • Pesticides like DDT used in such farms as cocoa farms.
  • Heat from generated from welding and smelting machines.
  • Lead fumes from bullets used by police in the police force.
  • Cadmium generated in the making of batteries.
  • X-ray radiation from x-ray machines.
  • Disinfectants such as DBCP, PCBs used in hospitals.
  • Newsprint used in printing Newspaper. For example, a fellow patient had been married for 6 years without any pregnancies. 2 years before he got married, he had transferred to the basement of their office, which contain old accumulated newsprint. He remembered there was always a bad smell coming from the room where the newsprints were stored. The doctors told him that the smell coming from the newsprints contained fumes of black carbon and other dye fumes that could be toxic to the sperm.

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