Do Pesticide Residues In Foods Heighten Infertility Risk?

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Pesticide exposure may affect spermatogenesis leading to poor semen quality and reduced male infertility. The sperm can be genetically altered for 90 days from 1 pesticide exposure. It may also cause damage to testis and alter hormone function. Consume foods low in pesticide residues like avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, onions and asparagus.

Curejoy Expert Dipti Mothay Explains:

Pesticides are chemicals used to ensure high crop yield by protecting food and crops from pests (insects, weeds and fungal diseases). Pesticide residue refers to the traces of pesticides that may remain on or in the produce after they are applied to food crops. As the residual levels may be toxic for human health, most countries monitor the residual levels and establish legal limits of pesticides in food.

According to studies, pesticides have been associated with numerous health problems, ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption [1].

Pesticides and Sperm Health

Pesticides on fruits and vegetables can be detrimental for sperm health. According to studies pesticide exposure resulted in reduced fertility in males, genetic alterations in sperm, reduced sperm quality, damage to germinal epithelium and altered hormone function [2].

Reduced Fertility

Pesticide exposure may affect spermatogenesis (process of sperm cell development) leading to poor semen quality and reduced male fertility [3].

Reduced Sperm Quality

Study suggests that exposure to pesticide residue through diet may affect sperm quality. According to a study by the Harvard University researchers, men who ate fruits and vegetables with higher levels of pesticide residues had a lower sperm count and a lower percentage of normal sperm than those who ate produce with lower residue levels [4].

Damage to Testes

The germinal epithelium is the innermost layer of the testicle; long term exposure to pesticides may cause severe damage to this epithelial layer [5].

Altered Hormone Function

According to new tests conducted by British scientists, many agricultural pesticides commonly found in food (including many that are widely used currently and are otherwise not covered by current regulatory guidelines for pesticide tests)  are anti-androgenic i.e. they disrupt the endocrine system and block male hormones [6].

Pesticide Residue In Fruits And Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables high in pesticide residue

Fruits such as apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes have high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

Fruits and vegetables low in pesticide residue

Fruits and vegetables such as avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes are least likely to hold pesticide residue.


Consume fruits and vegetables with lower likelihood of pesticide residue. Wash fruits and vegetables before using. Prefer organically grown produce as much as possible.


  1. Berrada, H., et al. “Surveillance of pesticide residues in fruits from Valencia during twenty months (2004/05).” Food Control 21.1 (2010): 36-44.
  2. Environmental Impacts on Reproductive Health, Association Of Reproductive Health Professionals, Jan 2010
  3. Roeleveld, Nel, and Reini Bretveld. “The impact of pesticides on male fertility.” Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology 20.3 (2008): 229-233.
  4. Chiu, Y. H., et al. “Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic.” Human Reproduction (2015): dev064.
  5. Perry, Melissa J. “Effects of environmental and occupational pesticide exposure on human sperm: a systematic review.” Human reproduction update 14.3 (2008): 233-242.
  6. Orton, Frances et al. “Widely Used Pesticides with Previously Unknown Endocrine Activity Revealed as in Vitro Antiandrogens.” Environmental Health Perspectives 119.6 (2011): 794–800. PMC. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.


CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.