Dr. Shanna Swan (@drshannaswan) is the Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the author of Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
What We Discuss with Dr. Shanna Swan:
- Why has sperm count among men in Western countries decreased by over 50 percent in the past four decades?
- What can increasing reproductive problems in the animal kingdom tell us about diminishing human fertility?
- The same chemicals that cause reproductive decline are responsible for the obesity epidemic.
- What are some of the best practices we can personally observe for recovering from some of the most common fertility issues we face?
- What steps can society take today to ensure we have enough of a population to constitute a society tomorrow?
- And much more…
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Why has sperm count among men in Western countries decreased by over 50 percent in the past four decades? Over the course of her research that uncovered this grim statistic, Dr. Shanna Swan — who has been researching the impact of environmental chemicals on neuro- and sexual development for more than 20 years — realized this was only the tip of a much more sinister iceberg.
On this episode, Dr. Swan — author of Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race — joins us to discuss how both lifestyle and chemical exposures are affecting our fertility, sexual development — potentially including the increase in gender fluidity — and general health as a species. Here, we’ll learn what is currently known about these threats and what we can do to best protect ourselves — and our descendants — from their influence.
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss our conversation with Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier and New York Times bestselling author? Get caught up with episode 622: Ishmael Beah | Memoirs of a Boy Soldier here!
Thanks, Dr. Shanna Swan!
If you enjoyed this session with Dr. Shanna Swan, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race by Shanna H. Swan and Stacey Colino | Amazon
- Dr. Shanna Swan | Website
- Dr. Shanna Swan | Twitter
- Dr. Shanna Swan | Instagram
- Temporal Trends in Sperm Count: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis | Human Reproduction Update
- Dr. Shanna Swan: A Global Fertility Crisis | After Skool
- Reproductive Problems in Both Men and Women Are Rising at an Alarming Rate | Scientific American
- Gay Frogs (Alex Jones REMIX) | Placeboing
- The Frog of War | Mother Jones
- Teeny Weenies: Fooling With Nature | Frontline
- The Infant Development and Environment Study (TIDES) | Icahn School of Medicine
- Low Testosterone: 12 Signs in Men | Healthline
- The Obesogen Effect: Why We Eat Less and Exercise More but Still Struggle to Lose Weight by Bruce Blumberg | Amazon
- Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry | The New Yorker
- Meet Shoji Morimoto, The Japanese ‘Do-Nothing Guy’ Who People Can Rent Out Just For Company | ATI
- Solving the Loneliness Epidemic, Two Generations at a Time | Stanford Social Innovation Review
- Low Fertility in Asia | The United Nations
- China’s Former One-Child Policy Continues to Haunt Families | NPR
- Fertility Rate, Total (Births Per Woman) | The World Bank
- Chemicals in Cosmetics, Soaps Tied to Early Puberty in Girls | Reuters
- Influence of Low-Level Prenatal Exposure to PCDD/Fs and PCBs on Empathizing, Systemizing and Autistic Traits: Results from the Duisburg Birth Cohort Study | PLoS ONE
- Phthalates | FDA
- Anogenital Distance | Wikipedia
- Anogenital Distance as a Measure of Human Male Fertility | PMC
- What’s Happened to Thalidomide Babies? | BBC News
- Phthalates Are Everywhere, and the Health Risks Are Worrying. How Bad Are They Really? | The Guardian
- Firefighting Chemicals Are Contaminating the Water of 16.5 Million People | Newsweek
- What are Plastic Microbeads? | Marine Litter Solutions
- How Plastic is Wrecking Your Health | Carol Kwiatkowski, PhD | The Genius Life 42
- Know Your Choices | Environmental Working Group
- Regrettable Substitution: Swapping the Devil You Know for the Devil You Don’t | Environmental Defense Fund
- What Is BPA, and What Are the Concerns about BPA? | Mayo Clinic
- Di(2-Ethylhexyl)Phthalate (DEHP) | ATSDR
- The Toxins That Affected Your Great-Grandparents Could Be In Your Genes | Smithsonian Magazine
- Lead Poisoning Successes and 21st Century Challenges | Pediatrics in Review
- The Drugs in Drinking Water | Healthline
- You’re Absorbing BPA From Your Receipts, Study Shows | Newsweek
- A Complete Plastic Numbers Guide | Yes Straws
- Reverse Osmosis | Wikipedia
- Detox Me Action Kit | Silent Spring Institute
- Children of Men | Prime Video
658: Shanna Swan | The Reproduction Crisis and Humanity’s Future
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Shanna Swan: The problem is that the risk is very different and that it's smaller risk, it's not like you're going to be born with no arms. You're going to have these small changes that you won't see unless you're in a study that measures it. So it doesn't cause you charms to any one person, it causes you charms when you consider the entire population.
[00:00:27] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional mafia enforcer, money-laundering, expert, or tech mogul. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:00:52] Now, if you're new to the show, or you're looking for a way to tell your friends about it, I suggest our episode starter packs. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic to help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like negotiation and communication, technology and futurism, scams and conspiracies, crime and cults, failure and resilience, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:19] Today, we're talking with Dr. Shanna Swan. For over 20 years, Dr. Swan has been studying the impact of environmental chemicals on neuro and sexual development. So we're going to learn just how our fertility is in grave danger and seemingly getting worse every year. This isn't just too much laptop use or keeping your cell phone in your pocket. I'm talking about the results of chemical exposure through our skin, the air we breathe, the water we drink, even things that just exist around us, that we don't ingest, at least not intentionally. There is so much in this episode. And I know that after this interview I immediately went and did it pretty serious closet clean out. I changed a lot of things around the house here. I know that might sound a little paranoid, but a lot of these harmful chemicals and ingredients, and many of the things we trust are safe to use might actually really be out to get us, or at least out to get our future offspring. You're going to learn a ton from this. And hey, it's not just fear-mongering, I'm including a lot of practicals in the show close as well.
[00:02:15] Here we go with Dr. Shanna Swan.
[00:02:19] Right now, we're in what you've described as a global fertility crisis. Can you describe in brief what that is?
[00:02:25] Shanna Swan: Sure. So when we look at where a typical man's sperm count is it's about half of what it was 40 years ago. And that is more or less alarming, depending on how much you understand this.
[00:02:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:02:41] Shanna Swan: And it does take only one sperm to conceive a child. So you might think, "Okay, I just need one and I'm good to go," but it's kind of like a lottery and you want to have a lot of, you know—
[00:02:51] Jordan Harbinger: Tickets.
[00:02:52] Shanna Swan: Investments.
[00:02:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:02:53] Shanna Swan: And so you really need those millions of sperm, believe it or not in order to get one, that's going to make it through and do the job. Here's how it works with sperm count. When it's high and that's anything I would say over 60 is going to be plenty. That's 60 million sperm per milliliter. That's a lot of sperm. Over that, it doesn't matter a lot. So whether you have 60 or 70 or 90 or a hundred, it's kind of the same chances of getting somebody pregnant each time you try. But when you drop below 50, 45 and where exactly that is, is up for grabs, but somewhere down there, it's getting harder. And the lower, the number, the harder it is to get somebody pregnant. And how do you know that? It takes longer. It takes more tries. It takes more months. And one of the things that people look at as the probability of conceiving on a given cycle, right? So that number goes down really rapidly when you go below 40.
[00:03:57] So where are we now? Last time we looked, when we published in 2021, we were at 47 million sperm per milliliter. And that's for a typical man. And we can talk about what that is.
[00:04:09] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:04:09] Shanna Swan: So 47 you can see is pretty close to the point at which it's getting harder to conceive. It's taking longer. It's taking more tries. And when that number drops lower and lower to zero, of course, there's zero chance of getting anyone pregnant, no matter how long you try, right? No sperm, no go.
[00:04:29] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:04:29] Shanna Swan: But it turns out it drops off pretty rapidly. So where we are now at 47 is pretty close to the point where a substantial number of men and couples are going to have trouble conceiving a child, the usual way that is without assistance. That's where we are now.
[00:04:46] And the reproductive crisis doesn't stop with sperm. There's a lot of other measures of reproductive health for men like their level of testosterone, which is also in trouble. We could talk about that. And for women frequent miscarriage, repeated miscarriage, menstrual problems, premature ovarian failure. That means fancy name for saying not enough eggs left at the end of your reproductive life. And also there's endometriosis, there's polycystic ovarian syndrome and so on and so forth. So all kinds of things can go wrong and they are, and the result is that world fertility has dropped in part because of these things, also 50 percent.
[00:05:30] So we have a 50 percent drop in sperm count. We have a 50 percent drop in fertility worldwide and increases and all the bad things like testicular cancer and miscarriage and blah, blah, blah, blah. So it doesn't look good. It's not a healthy picture. It's not leading to reproductive health.
[00:05:47] Jordan Harbinger: What can we learn from the animal world in terms of the fertility crisis? You know, you hear people including total, you know, nut jobs like Alex Jones, I'm sure people have quoted this to you like, "There's chemicals in the water, turning the frogs gay," right? Have you heard this guy?
[00:06:01] Shanna Swan: Yeah.
[00:06:02] Jordan Harbinger: But that's like the one thing that he wasn't completely insanely off about, right? And maybe they're not gay frogs, but there's things in the water that are turning the frogs into, I guess, you'd call it ambiguous genitalia is what you wrote in the book.
[00:06:14] Shanna Swan: Yeah. And actually my colleague Tyrone Hayes can actually produce in the laboratory frogs that prefer to mate with other male frogs. So a male frog—
[00:06:25] Jordan Harbinger: So there are gay frogs. Oh my gosh.
[00:06:27] Shanna Swan: Right. They are gay frogs.
[00:06:30] Jordan Harbinger: All right.
[00:06:30] Shanna Swan: And that happens actually in the wild. And so what Tyrone wanted to do is make sure it was causal. And to do that, you do an experiment and he did that and he showed that was true. And then you have also observations like smaller genitalia, like shorter penises in alligators when they're exposed to pesticides and other animals having shorter organs and so on. So it's definitely possible that we can learn that, but there's something else we can learn from animals, which is if we want to know whether a chemical is going to harm us, what would be well to do is to test it on an animal first, an animal that has a similar system to ours.
[00:07:09] So if we're worried about reproduction, we want an animal, like a rodent that's very good for looking at reproductive health. Other animals, pigs are good for other things, how pregnancies, you know, advanced and so on. So depending on the system that you're looking at, you want to pick an animal, that's going to reflect development in humans, and then you can do an experiment. So you can't do an experiment on us — although we kind of are part of a massive experiment. We can talk about that.
[00:07:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:33] Shanna Swan: But you know, we can't get approval to assign these women to take phthalates and these women not to take phthalates, for example. You can't do that. That's not ethical.
[00:07:45] Jordan Harbinger: No, it's not ethical. Right. We're just doing it to ourselves without any permission because—
[00:07:49] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:07:49] Jordan Harbinger: —we're putting, I don't know, face cream on, that has it in there already.
[00:07:53] Shanna Swan: Right. So we have the option to do it to ourselves and we are, but in terms of me doing it in an experiment, I can't do that, but we can to animals. So what that means is we can actually do a controlled experiment, exposed, unexposed, when they're exposed, how much they're exposed, and learn a lot of things about risk, what's the most risky period, what's the most risky dose, and so on. Right? So that's something we can learn from animals.
[00:08:19] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard also that younger folks are less interested in sexual activity these days. And that sort of contributing to this. I mean, look, that's maybe a different cause. It's not chemicals in the environment but — or are chemicals in the environment causing less interest in sexual activity? I guess maybe we don't even know, right?
[00:08:35] Shanna Swan: We have some clues. And I would say it's probably like everything else complicated and due to lots of causes. But just to give you an example, the study that I've conducted for a long time, which just it's called TIDES. Okay, so in TIDES, we asked women about their interest in sex and about their satisfaction with their sex life. And it turned out that those that had more phthalates in their urine at the time they answered this question were less satisfied with their sex life.
[00:09:07] Jordan Harbinger: Huh?
[00:09:08] Shanna Swan: That's pretty dramatic.
[00:09:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:09:09] Shanna Swan: And it's on the female side. It also happens on the male side so that when you lower testosterone, as you probably know, you have lots of problems with libido, interest, and also with the ability like erectile dysfunction, and that has been going up, and it is it's related to all of these chemicals that were exposed.
[00:09:29] Jordan Harbinger: When I was younger, I was going through like business stress. And 20/20 hindsight is probably a little depressed, but I just didn't see it in the moment because I was like 29, 30 years old. I was like, "What do I have to be sad about?" And I was stressed out a lot and I couldn't — I mean, you could have plopped the most beautiful woman in front of me and I would have been like, "What's on TV, man? In fact, don't even turn on the TV. I'm going back to bed." You know, I just couldn't have cared less. And so I imagined that, that plus chemical exposure plus stress plus moving to an urban environment and not being able to afford a house and having a hundred grand in student loans, like that kind of thing, that'll do it, man. That's the motor killer right there for a lot of people.
[00:10:06] Shanna Swan: Right. Stress is a very, very big driver of sexual problems, definitely. But what I'm here to tell you is that chemicals also can do this. And so we have a confounding, if you will, of your lifestyle. You know, factors for example — obesity, actually, for example, let's take obesity. Obesity is not good for your sperm count. It's not good for your testosterone. It's not good for your sexual libido, right? And this, in addition, you're being exposed to these chemicals that can also affect these functions. Then you're getting a double whammy and sometimes they even interact. So you have a worse effect if you're obese than if you're not.
[00:10:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Oh, man. As we know, a lot of America or Westerners, but Americans especially, we're not getting any thinner as a population, most of us.
[00:10:51] Shanna Swan: Right. And that by the way, if you read the book obesity, there's a book on obesogens, things that cause obesity, the same chemicals that cause reproductive problems are causing obesity.
[00:11:03] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:11:03] Shanna Swan: So don't take it just from me. Look it up. Obesogens, it's well known in our field, but this is another area along with reproductive function, along with neurodevelopment that are being affected by these chemicals.
[00:11:17] Jordan Harbinger: And of course, sex drive and the ability to lose weight quickly are often, I would say, associated with testosterone in men anyway, actually probably in anyone. And so if testosterone is indeed getting lower and you mentioned that sort of in the open of the show, that would affect sperm count, desire to have sex in the first place, your weight, and then possibly cause a spiral, right? Because then you're getting bigger, you're less interested. Your testosterone goes down even further. Like it just doesn't, there's no sort of check there.
[00:11:44] Shanna Swan: Right. It's not a pretty picture.
[00:11:47] Jordan Harbinger: No. This could lead to demographic collapse. I don't want to be dramatic, right? But I mean, if we're talking about people having fewer kids and that spreading across a whole population, we see things like that in China, Japan, Korea, where there's just not enough young people to produce, uphold the GDP, take care of older folks. Are you worried about that at all? Or is that sort of outside your area of study?
[00:12:10] Shanna Swan: Yeah, I definitely worried about that. And let's talk about Japan for a minute in Japan. There is a lot of really interesting media stuff that you can look up. You can look up rent a family.
[00:12:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I've seen this.
[00:12:26] Shanna Swan: Rent a family in Japan. You can also have rent a stranger if you want to be somewhere like going out to dinner, but not be seen eating alone, you can rent a stranger. You have women marrying themselves. They prefer not to marry men. They marry themselves because that's simpler and there are all these really scary developments and they've produced what's called a loneliness epidemic in Japan. So it's not only loneliness in terms of your contact. It's also loneliness in terms of your family and your inability to actually reproduce.
[00:13:04] So there's a very, very low fertility rate as you mentioned in many parts of Asia. So that's in Singapore and South Korea and Japan and Hong Kong and so on. And the interesting thing is that the government has tried to turn this around, right? They've tried to offer incentives like subsidized housing, you know, for people with children, and if you have more children, more subsidies and so on and so forth, and it's actually not working. So the governments have not figured out how to incentivize people to have more children, and it's a problem.
[00:13:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think China is going through something similar where they had the one-child policy for so long. Now, they have a two-child policy. And I think you can have three if you live outside a major city. And everyone I know — I take Chinese lessons all the time and I know all these young Chinese people because of that. And they're like, "I'm never having kids," or they're like, "I'll have one. I'm not going to have more than one. It's too expensive."
[00:13:56] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:13:56] Jordan Harbinger: It's like, even if they subsidize your housing, it's like, cool. Well, are you going to pay for all of the other things I have to pay for on my meager salary in order to raise a kid in anything that resembles a city? No, not really. And even if they did it, it's hard to turn the culture around. If your parents had one kid and you have one kid and now, suddenly your grandkids are supposed to have three. Like, nah, come on. It's not going to happen.
[00:14:17] Shanna Swan: Right. It's not going to happen.
[00:14:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:19] Shanna Swan: And by the way, the people that are having children more and more of them are having them through assisted reproduction.
[00:14:25] Jordan Harbinger: Ah.
[00:14:25] Shanna Swan: Going to the medical route because they can't do it on their own. So that makes it more challenging as well. Assisted reproduction is expensive. It's also painful to the woman if you choose certain routes, and it's just difficult. Add to that, that many people don't become aware of the problem until they're pretty old.
[00:14:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:46] Shanna Swan: So you have this aging problem, which is confounding this, you know, acting on top of it. So you have older people who might've been able to get pregnant when they were younger or guys who wouldn't be able to do it when they were younger. But then, when they're older, things aren't working as well, and so you got that double whammy from age and chemicals.
[00:15:04] Jordan Harbinger: Because people are waiting longer to have kids and urbanizing and things like that. Okay.
[00:15:08] Shanna Swan: That's right.
[00:15:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So I guess if I wait until I'm 35 or 37, like I did, I think I was 37 to 38 when I had my first kid. If I wait until then, and I'm like, "Man, I've been trying for a year or two, I'm 39, 40 now. What's going on? Oh, well you have this problem that you've had pretty badly for the last, I don't know, 10 years, eight years." The window may have already closed for me to really do anything about that. Whereas if I had started, when I was 28, I might've had a shot, no pun intended.
[00:15:34] Shanna Swan: And in fact, most men don't know. They don't know their semen quality. They don't know their sperm count. I don't know where you found out yours or if you ever did, maybe.
[00:15:43] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:15:44] Shanna Swan: It's not something that most men know but most men don't want to even go there. They're like, "I'm okay."
[00:15:49] Jordan Harbinger: Ignorance is bliss.
[00:15:50] Shanna Swan: Right? If I need it, I'll have it when I need it.
[00:15:53] Jordan Harbinger: I did go to a sperm bank when I was younger because I heard, and when I was broke, I heard that if you had a really good education and you are X, Y, Z, this, that, and the other thing, you could get a bunch of money. So I went in and did the questionnaire and they're like, "Oh, you're in the top tier category for all these things. And it's like 1200 bucks each time." And I was like, "Where — see on Tuesdays." Yeah, so that was interesting, but they don't say you have X number of sperm per milliliter and they don't tell you anything. And I think it's because of medical liability reasons. They don't want to be responsible for you having any sort of knowledge on their behalf. They just want to get the goods and get you out of the door.
[00:16:27] Shanna Swan: Well, the fact that they took you on and paid you that $1,200, I assume, means that everything was pretty good, probably your count, the motility, how it moves, the shape they were in and that's called morphology. That was probably all pretty good. So good for you but—
[00:16:43] Jordan Harbinger: So fine, I've got two kids now so it held up over the next decade.
[00:16:49] Shanna Swan: But if a younger guy, you know, finds that out, you know that he's good. Maybe he wants to bank his sperm. You know, that way when he gets older or maybe he has more exposures, he's not ready when he's young, but he might be ready when he's older, and he's got some insurance in the back. So I'm suggesting, and now it's gotten very easy. There are companies where you don't have to go into the office to give. You can do it at home or you can mail it in. These are reputable companies. And, you know, you might want to actually get one of those people on.
[00:17:19] Jordan Harbinger: That stuff is interesting. A friend of mine, he had testicular cancer and I think we're in our early '30s. So, one of the first things he did was go and have his sperm frozen and, you know, he had cancer and chemo and all that, and he made it through just fine. He recently just got married and he has a kid now because of that.
[00:17:37] Shanna Swan: Great.
[00:17:37] Jordan Harbinger: So it was like good forward thinking on his part. So I think, look, if you're young and you think maybe I should have kids, I'd say it's worth a few hundred bucks or whatever it is per year, just to make sure you got that young, super healthy sperm of high quality. Because it's not just quantity, right? It's also quality or especially quality, maybe.
[00:17:54] Shanna Swan: Right, yeah.
[00:17:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:55] Shanna Swan: Women have that option as well although it's not as uncomplicated for women. It's harder, much harder to retrieve the eggs. It's doesn't mean it's definitely going to work, but it's something to think about and talk to your doctor about if you think you want to delay, maybe until you're in your late '30s. Definitely your chances of conceiving go down rapidly after 35 and your chances of having eggs that have mutations also go up past 35. So if you want to have an egg that you feel safe and comfortable with, talk to your doctor about whether you should be freezing or not.
[00:18:29] Jordan Harbinger: How much of people having fewer kids is because of education, economy, so wanting fewer kids and lower fertility? Like being able to have fewer kids. Because you know, I read like Denmark, they have one kid because they're higher educated. And when education goes up in some of these developing countries, their rates of fertility go way down or I should say the amount of offspring they have goes way down.
[00:18:51] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:18:51] Jordan Harbinger: That's pretty common. I assume you control for that when you're studying things like fertility.
[00:18:56] Shanna Swan: Okay. Complicated—
[00:18:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:57] Shanna Swan: —question. Let me try to answer a few things. First of all, fertility is a complicated word.
[00:19:02] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, yeah.
[00:19:03] Shanna Swan: The word total fertility is used by demographers to talk about how many children a woman has on average.
[00:19:10] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:19:11] Shanna Swan: And you can go to a very good website called World Bank, fertility data. Anybody can Google that and you can see how many children on average a woman has and how that's changed over time and how it differs from country to country. So that's really informative. If you do that, you can see that back in 1960, the world had five children per woman, and now 2021, I think is the latest they have it's 2.4, so cut in half, right? So why? That's your question.
[00:19:42] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:42] Shanna Swan: So you're absolutely right. That education economics, contraception, women entering the workforce are all, I would say positive factors that are causing women to have fewer children. They have that option in many places now. They have that right. And so they're exercising that and I think that's a great thing.
[00:20:04] What's not so clear is how do you separate that from other causes like chemical causes that affects sperm count and all these other factors that we talked about? There's no question that exposure to a number of these hormonally active chemicals that affect — sperm count also affects your ability to conceive or your time to conception or your probability of conceiving in any cycle. That was also effective. So I would say it's joint and I can't give you a percent like 50/50—
[00:20:36] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:20:36] Shanna Swan: —or 40/60. That's really too hard to do. I would say they're both significant causes. And they're probably also interacting because if you're educated and you're higher socioeconomic status, you're going to have the ability to control your exposures more. You may be able to buy unprocessed food and buy, you know, organic food and buy safer cosmetics and so on and so on and so forth. Which you can't do if you're poor or maybe live in a food desert, there's no fresh food around. You can't afford organic food, then you're going to be hit in multiple ways.
[00:21:12] So it's very complicated to separate. Who are you talking about? Upper or middle-class, Caucasians. Are you talking about people, you know, in lower socioeconomic status or other countries that are more impacted? It's really hard to separate.
[00:21:27] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard also that young women are going through puberty a lot earlier, and we think that might be linked to chemical exposure. Can you speak to that a little bit? Because that's creepy in multiple ways.
[00:21:37] Shanna Swan: Yeah. So women are going through puberty earlier, particularly in terms of breast development earlier breast development. And this is particularly true of African-American women in the United States. It has been studied most thoroughly in the United States. One of the reasons is that it's tied to the level of body weight. So women who have higher body weight and are obese are more likely to develop earlier. So then, you have this complicated situation of women who are being exposed to chemicals that increase obesity and also affect maybe independently, their age of puberty. You know, I can't say that it's all through obesity, but that definitely plays a role. And it's definitely happening that there is this decrease, earlier age at first menstrual cycle, for example, and earlier age at breast development. It's most marked in people of color for various reasons.
[00:22:32] Jordan Harbinger: I would imagine that causes a lot of other issues, right? Because not just maybe unwanted attention, but my body image stuff going on. Because when you're that young, if you're developing earlier your emotional capacity to deal with that stuff doesn't necessarily come earlier. You're just stuck with it for a while, right?
[00:22:50] Shanna Swan: Yeah. And it's very hard on those girls. They're different there. Fortunately, neither I nor my kids had those problems, but I'm concerned for those girls. I think it's putting them under stress that they don't deserve. And we don't know, I don't know, and perhaps other people do know how that earlier age puberty is related to how long they're reproductively active—
[00:23:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:23:15] Shanna Swan: —the reproductive lifespan, but that's something to be concerned about as well.
[00:23:19] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Yeah. Like, do I lose all my eggs faster or not faster, but sooner. I should say if I start 10 years before I'm even really ready to start using those things or 15 years beforehand. Does that subtract 15 years from the backend where I'm, you know, now I'm in full one at 32 instead of 42?
[00:23:38] Shanna Swan: Yeah. So by the way, just to put this in perspective, we're not talking about 10 to 15 years, we're talking about months or possibly a year, year and a half. We're not talking about huge changes but not 10 to 15 years, but still—
[00:23:49] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, well that's a relief. Yeah.
[00:23:50] Shanna Swan: Yeah, right.
[00:23:51] Jordan Harbinger: I suppose that makes sense. I don't know. That just made me sound like super weird, but I'll leave it. I'll leave it in, whatever. I'm not going to mess — that's a relief though. I guess I just assumed it meant like five plus years earlier instead of just a few months or a few years, but even so every week counts, if you're in your late thirties, finally settled in your career and you want to have a kid and you can't because you went into puberty when you were 12 or 13, instead of when you were 15.
[00:24:16] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:24:17] Jordan Harbinger: So, yeah, it's kind of a raw deal. Some of this chemical exposure stuff is really interesting in kind of a morbid way. The play behavior, so PCB is causing feminine behavior in boys. What is this chemical, first of all? How can it change the way boys play? That's unnerving.
[00:24:34] Shanna Swan: Yeah, so actually I'd rather talk to you about phthalates because we found the same thing with phthalates.
[00:24:39] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:24:40] Shanna Swan: I haven't studied PCBs myself.
[00:24:42] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:24:42] Shanna Swan: But phthalates, which are chemicals in plastic and they make plastic soft and flexible. Also in cosmetics, we can talk about all the places that phthalates are found.
[00:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:24:52] Shanna Swan: So in that study, I told you about called TIDES, our study, where we asked women about their sexual satisfaction. Remember that? In that same study, we got the mother's urine when they were pregnant. Right?
[00:25:03] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:03] Shanna Swan: So once you have the urine, you can — guess what? Find out how much chemicals in the body actually, that's the only way you can do it for these things like phthalates and bisphenol. So those things are water-soluble. So they go into water means they go into the urine and they do it pretty quickly, by the way, you can measure that. The half-life is 46 hours. You can measure it, you know, really right away. And that tells you what the exposure was. So we did that. We did that for all of these pregnant women in our study over 800 women. And then we related those levels in the women to various things, how the genitals of their children looked, and then how did they develop. And we looked at their language development, we looked at their play and that's what you asked me about. So let me talk about play.
[00:25:48] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:49] Shanna Swan: So play is a really controversial issue. There's a lot of questions about how much is determined socially and how much is determined genetically and how much might be influenced by chemicals. To just say that this is a touchy, a little bit touchy subject. So when I talk about male-typical and female-typical play, this is from questionnaires that are quite old and today's questionnaires probably wouldn't use that language because certainly women can do pretty much what men can do and why should they have different play and so on and so forth. And in toy stores, you used to always see boys' toys and girls' toys, right?
[00:26:27] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:26:27] Shanna Swan: But there's been a lot of effort to do away with that and to do away with the sex, typical toys. Nevertheless, experiments in monkeys find that monkeys make similar toy choices to humans suggesting that it's not all social.
[00:26:43] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting.
[00:26:44] Shanna Swan: So for example, the Vervet monkey male will choose a wheeled car to push around.
[00:26:50] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:26:51] Shanna Swan: Or a female will pick a doll and cradle it.
[00:26:54] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:26:55] Shanna Swan: You know, so there's something there, isn't there?
[00:26:57] Jordan Harbinger: That's so interesting. Wow.
[00:26:59] Shanna Swan: So we asked the mother to tell us how their child played at around four years. And we asked 24 standard questions and they were asked in that PCB study you talked about, and they were asked in many other studies. These questions are about what has been called sex-typical play. And that means play typical of a genetic male or a genetic female. We have to be careful about that these days, right?
[00:27:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we do. Yeah. Carol Hooven and I talked about this. I don't know if you're familiar with her at all.
[00:27:30] Shanna Swan: No.
[00:27:31] Jordan Harbinger: We talked about the development of a hormone, or I should say hormones in the development of the reproductive system and any disruption in these hormones can cause things to develop abnormally or not at all. And of course, she got canceled for saying that there are genetic sexes essentially, and it was kind of rough for her.
[00:27:49] Shanna Swan: Yeah. That's why I'm being really careful here.
[00:27:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, good idea.
[00:27:53] Shanna Swan: Right. And so I'm just saying that using this older instrument, I can just tell you what we found. So there are 24 questions and every one of those questions is classified as male and female. Right there, a lot of people will scream—
[00:28:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:08] Shanna Swan: —and say, can't do that. And probably you can't do that nearly as well as people thought, you know, 20 years ago. But there are things like: how often does your child play with tea sets? How often does your child play dress up as a princess? How often does your child play with wheeled cars? How often does your child play with guns or things that look like guns and so on and so forth? And from that, you construct masculine score and a feminine score. So depending on how often they answered the more female-typical, they'll get a higher feminine score and a male-typical, more male.
[00:28:41] So just saying again, this is controversial, it's difficult. Nevertheless, it did show something. In several studies. And I'll just tell you what we found.
[00:28:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:28:52] Shanna Swan: That when the mother was exposed to higher levels of certain phthalates, those chemicals that make plastic soft and flexible and are actually also related to testosterone and also related to the general development which we have talked of, then the boy was less likely to play in a male-typical manner. He was more likely to play, have more of the feminine answers than he would if he was less exposed.
[00:29:22] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Dr. Shanna Swan. We'll be right back.
[00:29:27] This episode is sponsored in part by Seekr. Of course, you want to access reliable, trustworthy information. It's getting harder to do that online. Transparency about what you consume online is becoming more and more important these days. For me, prepping the show, I rely on that. I have to have that it's not an option. Seekr as a new search engine that I've been using a ton lately. You can, of course, search for anything like you normally would, except Seekr makes it easier for you to access what's reliable. And the frankly, better information by giving everything a Seekr score, which analyzes articles using AI and machine learning and all that jazz. How it works is when you're about to click on an article, you'll see the Seekr score. You can tell how reliable the information is and Seekr evaluates the articles using best practice journalistic principles. So, you know you're about to read an unhinged rant about nothing. That's just clickbaiting you into go into the site or whatever. You can even adjust filters for what political lean preference you'd like. So I like to know what I'm getting into before I click and that's what Seekr has been really good at. Go to seekr.com to learn how you can make better decisions with access to better information. That's S-E-E-K-R.com.
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[00:32:06] Now back to Dr. Shanna Swan.
[00:32:10] I'm of two minds here, right? Because on the one hand, it doesn't matter to me if a kid turns out to be more feminine than male or a little boy does that doesn't matter, but it does matter if it's caused by chemical pollution. That is somehow much worse because then it's not, again, it's hard to say this without getting canceled, but like you want kids to develop, quote-unquote, "naturally." And wherever nature takes them is actually quite fine. But when it's like some crap that the mom had in the drawer, that's loaded with phthalates, that's causing a behavior change, then it's definitely not fine. The kid's a victim of this, right? And then ends up—
[00:32:42] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:32:42] Jordan Harbinger: —with a completely different life path because of a chemical, which is not something that I think anybody is really comfortable with, I would imagine.
[00:32:49] Shanna Swan: Right. And a lot more work has to be done on this using better tools. So let me just mention something, we said to the mother, "How often does your child play with dolls, for example, play with tea sets?" And suppose, it's a boy, you know, whether the kid plays with a doll or tea set, it might in part be whether that was in their world, in their life, in their toy, you know, in their toy chest, right?
[00:33:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:14] Shanna Swan: We tried to get around that by asking the mother's attitude and the father's attitude towards sex-typical or sex-atypical play, again, very difficult to do. And I think a better test of this than asking the mother would be to take the child, put them in a room, give them 50 toys, and see what they go for—
[00:33:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:33:36] Shanna Swan: —and see how they play with it and see how long they play with it. You'd get a much better sense of what really their choice was.
[00:33:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Because a little boy with five older sisters is going to play with tea sets and dolls. He doesn't have a choice, right?
[00:33:49] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:33:49] Jordan Harbinger: Except if he wants to play by himself.
[00:33:51] Shanna Swan: Right. Right. And so we actually took into account the sex of the older siblings—
[00:33:55] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:33:55] Shanna Swan: —how many there were—
[00:33:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:56] Shanna Swan: —and the mother's attitude, the father's attitude, nevertheless, it's a crude tool.
[00:34:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:01] Shanna Swan: But it did have this finding and it's a replicable finding it's been repeated. So it's not a fly-by-night finding. So I would say it's controversial. It's difficult, and it's something that should be investigated further. That's all we can say.
[00:34:16] Jordan Harbinger: Are kids getting hit mostly with these chemicals while they're in the womb, and the moms using, let's say cosmetics loaded with phthalates? Or is it as they grow older, just in their house, or is it like a double whammy where they're getting it in the womb and then they come out and then they're hit with it because it's on the carpet or something?
[00:34:30] Shanna Swan: Yeah. So that's a great question. It really depends on what outcome you're talking about to some extent.
[00:34:38] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:34:38] Shanna Swan: So if you're talking about how the genitals are developing, then you have to say, when does that happen, when is the most important period for that development? And it turns out, we know that exactly in rats and we know much less exactly in humans, but we know it's in the first trimester.
[00:34:56] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:34:57] Shanna Swan: Remember you can't like assign somebody phthalate exposure and then stop it and start it.
[00:35:02] Jordan Harbinger: True.
[00:35:03] Shanna Swan: So you have to take what you can get and you can't get urine every day, right? So you get maybe three samples. That's what we got. And we showed that the effect of these chemicals on the genital development was only in the first trimester.
[00:35:18] Jordan Harbinger: Got you. I feel like you could get urine every day. Step it up, Dr. Swan, come on. There's a lot of pee out there.
[00:35:26] Shanna Swan: But if you're looking at something else, like neurodevelopment, when is that happening? Wow. That's a very complicated story, right? And it's going on all the time. It continues until you're like a boy of 18, who's still having his prefrontal lobes development.
[00:35:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, up until 27.
[00:35:41] Shanna Swan: Right. We have a very different sense of what the critical period is. And so on for other things, the development of the thyroid, the development, you know, every system in the body can be affected. And it's affected most at the time that it's developing the most, right? So that's what you have to know, when is the system developing? So, yes, and I'll talk about reproduction because that's my thing. Reproduction is most sensitive in early first trimester in humans, but that's not to say that there can't be an effect later on as well.
[00:36:13] So let me give you an example of smoking. So smoking is not a good thing for reproductive development. It affects sperm in the man whose mother smoked and also in the man who smokes himself.
[00:36:26] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:36:27] Shanna Swan: So even if the mother didn't smoke, when she was pregnant with him and he smokes, he's going to reduce his sperm count. Let's just say, one estimate has been 20 percent on average. Okay?
[00:36:37] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:36:37] Shanna Swan: If the mother smokes during this critical period that can reduce his sperm count to 40 percent.
[00:36:43] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:36:44] Shanna Swan: Now, the other difference is not only that it has more effect in the critical period, but what he does as an adult can be fixed. So if your sperm count is down because you're a smoker and you want to get somebody pregnant, you want to become a father, then stop smoking. Your sperm count will recover. It takes about three months because that's how long it takes to produce a sperm. So that's a good thing to do. If the mother smoked when she was pregnant, particularly in early pregnancy, and that's disrupted the germ cells that later produce the sperm when the guy was in his mid-20s or 20s, that can't be fixed.
[00:37:20] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:37:21] Shanna Swan: You can't fix that.
[00:37:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:22] Shanna Swan: So you have two different kinds of exposures, something that causes permanent harm and something that causes fixable harm. And so there are different. Here's another example, many pesticides are really bad for sperm and there was one super bad one called DBCP, dibromochloropropane. It was a nematocide, called nematodes and it was put on pineapple and other things. It was discovered a long time ago that the wives of these workers who were using this just weren't getting pregnant, just weren't getting pregnant. And they got together and talked about it. "Why? Well, I'm not going to pregnant? Do you get pregnant?"
[00:37:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:00] Shanna Swan: And so they checked the guys and they had no sperm.
[00:38:04] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. Oh, what a horrible discovery.
[00:38:07] Shanna Swan: Right?
[00:38:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:08] Shanna Swan: But here's the good news. They stopped using DBCP and within a few months, the sperm count recovered.
[00:38:16] Jordan Harbinger: That's good news, I suppose, for men everywhere.
[00:38:18] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:38:18] Jordan Harbinger: Like this is sort of reversible, a lot of the time anyway.
[00:38:22] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:38:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:22] Shanna Swan: So if it's an adult exposure, you stop that exposure, you're going to recover your sperm count, okay. So that's good news. So yes, adult exposure matters, prenatal exposure matters. There's probably an interaction between the two, like you suggested, you get double whammy, but that hasn't been very much studied. We're actually looking at that now. We have our children that we have the urine from while the mother was pregnant. And now, we have the urine when the kid is four and six and we're getting at eight and nine and so on. So we're going to see which one matters the most and how they interact and how they maybe produce a double or triple whammy if you keep getting exposed. So it's unfolding.
[00:39:06] Jordan Harbinger: Does the dose of chemicals have to be high to sustain damage or is this like trace amounts can do sort of a disproportionate amount of damage?
[00:39:14] Shanna Swan: It doesn't have to be high. It doesn't have to be high, for sure. And let me give you an example. This is kind of a little aside.
[00:39:21] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:39:22] Shanna Swan: It turns out that if you look at a rodent. A rodent has a lot of pups, right?
[00:39:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:28] Shanna Swan: Maybe a litter of 10, 12, 15, you know, and these pups are inside the womb and the womb actually has — what's called these horns. So there are these little pups sitting there and they're developing, right?
[00:39:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:40] Shanna Swan: And some males are between two males and some males are between two females, and so on, right?
[00:39:47] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:39:47] Shanna Swan: And some very elegant work back in the 1990s, believe it or not, showed that the sex of the neighbor influenced how that pup developed in terms of how large his genitals were and who he wanted to have sex with and how often.
[00:40:07] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting.
[00:40:08] Shanna Swan: Absolutely amazing.
[00:40:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:09] Shanna Swan: And what's amazing here — I just brought it up because of the dose, the amount of testosterone or estrogen that that rodent is getting from his neighbor or her neighbor is tiny, tiny but it makes all the difference and it can affect, like I say, how they develop and how they perform later on in life. So that's just to prove that tiny doses matter, but we also see it in humans when we measure the dose that people are getting, it doesn't have to be big.
[00:40:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It seems like smaller amounts, I guess, it depends on what you're mimicking. Right? Like alcohol, too much, you go to sleep. Just the right amount, you're embarrassing yourself in front of a room of hundreds of your peers, right? It's like, hypothetically.
[00:40:53] Shanna Swan: That's a great example.
[00:40:54] Jordan Harbinger: Feel free to use it.
[00:40:56] Shanna Swan: Okay. So because actually, my favorite example is exercise. I'll just tell you exercise.
[00:41:01] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:41:01] Shanna Swan: So, if you exercise a lot, super, you know, a lot like you're doing marathons. If you're a woman, you may not be menstruating. That's not good for conceiving. That's just it. Extreme, but if you're very, you know, high exercise or that may not be good for your fertility. If you don't exercise at all, you're a couch potato, you're laying around, you're not getting any exercise. That's not good for your fertility. In between is the sweet spot, which is good for your fertility. And that's like that with alcohol, for many, many things, we see this U shape where this is bad. This is bad. This is good, right?
[00:41:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That makes sense. I mean, everything is kind of on a bell curve in nature — well, I don't know. I might be speaking out of turn. Everything seems like it's on a bell curve in nature, right? More or less.
[00:41:47] Shanna Swan: The bell curve is a universal law, but I'm not talking about that exactly.
[00:41:50] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:41:50] Shanna Swan: I'm talking about this U shape or inverted U for risks. So risks, you know, being high in high doses, high at low doses, which is the case for exercise and low in the middle. Think about it as a U. That's not a bell shape, that's U. It's a different curve than the bell shape.
[00:42:08] Jordan Harbinger: What is the AGD? I read about this and I thought, well, you'll learn something every day. There's a term for this. And I think it's kind of, not only is it a little comical, but it's also really funny how indicative this is of reproductive health. Something that I thought for sure didn't matter in the scheme of things, it turns out to be a really good indicator.
[00:42:24] Shanna Swan: You and your listeners know this by tank.
[00:42:28] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:42:29] Shanna Swan: Okay.
[00:42:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:42:30] Shanna Swan: Maybe gooch and grundle or some of the street names for it.
[00:42:33] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny that you know all of those, but yeah, go ahead, continue.
[00:42:35] Shanna Swan: Yeah.
[00:42:35] Jordan Harbinger: I guess you would have to. Yeah, people have brought this up before.
[00:42:39] Shanna Swan: So it's a really important measurement. And what is it? It's how long a measured distance with a ruler — you can do this wit calipers, from just, like it says, from the anus to the genitals, anogenital distance. Okay? So how you actually measure it? If you want, we can go into that, but you can do it on babies, you can do it on adults. And here's the thing, it's amazing, it tells you two things. A baby's born and you measure it. Now, what do you expect? You expect it to be quite a bit larger in a male than a female. That stands to reason because if you think of what's in the space from the anus to the genitals, there's a lot more real estate, if you will, in a male than female, right?
[00:43:26] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:43:27] Shanna Swan: A lot to go in there.
[00:43:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:28] Shanna Swan: And it's actually 50 to 100 percent as big in a male as a female. That's what's normal.
[00:43:33] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:43:34] Shanna Swan: So when a baby's born and we did this for our TIDES and also for another earlier study, we measured this distance on babies at birth. And then we looked at it in relation to the mother's phthalates. Why would we do that? Well, it turns out that this measurement reflects how much testosterone was present when these genitals were developing. Think about that. Remember we talked about critical windows?
[00:44:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:04] Shanna Swan: So that early trimester, first trimester is when this all happens, when the males become male typical, the females become female typical, that starts to happen there. And it happens because of testosterone. So actually the default is female, believe it or not.
[00:44:21] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:44:21] Shanna Swan: So if testosterone doesn't come along, you're going to have a female. If testosterone comes along, then the male parts start developing. Okay. And if there isn't enough testosterone or is too late for that critical window, then you won't get the transition to the male typical genitals, okay. What can do that?
[00:44:44] Jordan Harbinger: Phthalates.
[00:44:45] Shanna Swan: Phthalates lower testosterone. And so they interrupt or interfere with this progression from the neutral to the male genitals. And then you can measure that at birth and we did. Before we did it, they did in animals. And I define something called a phthalate syndrome. So whole syndrome of what happens when the mother gets phthalates. And it's a shorter anogenital distance, smaller penis, smaller scrotum, less descended scrotum, and other changes internally, which we don't have to go into.
[00:45:21] Jordan Harbinger: Since everybody, half the audience anyway is getting a tape measure right now, what is a normal AGD for these people? So they don't have to Google it.
[00:45:31] Shanna Swan: I actually hesitate to say that because first of all, it's not a hard thing to measure, but you got to do it right or you can—
[00:45:38] Jordan Harbinger: You need a mirror.
[00:45:38] Shanna Swan: —get a wrong answer.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:39] Shanna Swan: No. You need a partner.
[00:45:41] Jordan Harbinger: I'm just kidding.
[00:45:42] Shanna Swan: You need a partner and you need actually calipers. But if you want to recount down, we have a lot about that in there. I'm not recommending that people measure their own. I am recommending, however, that this could become a standard of care as a measurement of every newborn.
[00:45:59] Jordan Harbinger: I see. I see.
[00:46:00] Shanna Swan: Let me tell you why. Not only does it tell you something about what happened before the baby was born. It tells you something about how they're going to perform as adults. That's the amazing thing.
[00:46:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting. That's interesting.
[00:46:14] Shanna Swan: Right?
[00:46:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:14] Shanna Swan: What we did in another study, we got a bunch of college students and the University of Rochester to allow us to measure their AGD males and also to give us a semen sample. And what we found was the longer the AGD — guess what?
[00:46:33] Jordan Harbinger: The higher the sperm count.
[00:46:34] Shanna Swan: Bingo.
[00:46:35] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:46:36] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:46:36] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man. Now, everyone's for sure, going to want to do this at home. All right. Well, they can get the book or Google it and figure it out. Because you just think that's a distance that like, you know, nobody's paying attention to this. Did you come up with the idea to measure that? Because that's just like, where would that even come from? That seems so random incredibly.
[00:46:52] Shanna Swan: Well, I told you there was a phthalate syndrome found in animals, right?
[00:46:56] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:46:56] Shanna Swan: So they've been measuring this AGD in animals.
[00:46:58] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:46:58] Shanna Swan: And they've actually done that for more than a hundred years in animals.
[00:47:02] Jordan Harbinger: Huh?
[00:47:02] Shanna Swan: But not at humans. And that actually — well, why? At the time that we published our first study, there had been one other study that had used this in humans and they didn't use it to say how bad are phthalates or how bad is it chemical. We were the first people to do. So what happened was I heard about this phthalate syndrome and I thought, does that exist in humans?
[00:47:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:47:24] Shanna Swan: Right? It's a reasonable question for an epidemiologist—
[00:47:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:27] Shanna Swan: —to ask, right?
[00:47:28] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:47:28] Shanna Swan: And then I thought, well, how would we do that? And so that was fun because I began to think about, well, what are they do in animals? And how do you translate that to humans? Well, we have to know what their phthalates exposure was. How do we know that? Well, I happened to have a study on hand in which we'd stored urine from women who were pregnant. So I could get that urine. I could test you for phthalates and then I could get the kids and measure their AGD and compare them. And that's what we did. And we found the phthalate syndrome in humans.
[00:47:57] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable. It's really incredible the connection that you find that. I mean, rarely are things almost so — I won't say they're cut and dry — but rarely are things so like obviously correlated, right? It's such a stroke—
[00:48:07] Shanna Swan: Yeah.
[00:48:07] Jordan Harbinger: —of luck, I guess, you would say to find a metric like that. What's scarier about things like phthalates and you mentioned this in the book, is that, look, if I had come up with a new food or a new drug, I've got to go through the FDA and I've got to prove that it's safe and all these different things, but chemicals are the opposite. It's almost like innocent until proven guilty. They can be used until they're proven dangerous. And then me as a chemical or packaging manufacturer can lobby and delay and throw disinformation out there for another decade to use this thing, times 85,000 chemicals are used in products. Most of them are untested. So there's a lot that can be done to make sure that dangerous chemicals or things that we can't yet prove are dangerous are just still in use.
[00:48:47] Shanna Swan: Absolutely.
[00:48:48] Jordan Harbinger: I want to think, "Hey, the plastic that I'm using to wrap my food, they've tested this to make sure it doesn't leach in there. Eh, not really. They're just waiting for like a million more people to sue them until they change it up." It's unreal.
[00:49:00] Shanna Swan: That's correct. That's correct. It's the FDA, like you said, for food, drugs, agriculture, there's pretty good control. That is, by the way, as a result of what happened when it wasn't controlled in the past, you know, lots of things like thalidomide, you've probably heard of that, you know, babies born without arms. And also a drug called diethylstilbestrol. So there were these exposures to the fetus that people didn't worry about. And then when these really bad things happen, then people said, "Whoops, we've got to control this." And that's when the FDA got teeth in their legislature and got things really controlled.
[00:49:37] That has to happen for environmental chemicals for chemicals in our daily products. The problem is that the risk is very different in that it's smaller risks. It's not like you're going to be born with no arms. You're going to have these small changes that you won't see unless you're in a study that measures it. So it doesn't cause you charms to any one person. It causes you charms when you consider the entire population.
[00:50:03] Jordan Harbinger: Right. If you're taking a hundred million people and you're saying, "Well, a bunch of them are going to have a lot more trouble conceiving and someone be able to at all, because they're something, something, AGD ends up shorter." Then it's like, "Well, we can't prove it was from that. It's going to be really hard to do." And also why put the cart before the horse and jumped the gun here. We got to use these chemicals cause they make your cosmetic, your eyeliner stay on or whatever it is.
[00:50:26] Shanna Swan: Yeah. They're very useful. There's no question about that. And what we have to do as a society is figure out how to meet those demands for those uses with safer chemicals. And many people are working on that. It's a really hard job. One of the problems is what's — how do you define safe?
[00:50:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:43] Shanna Swan: So you can imagine, you know, is it safe for a rodent? Is it safe for human? Okay, how long are you going to wait to find that out?
[00:50:49] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of this stuff never goes away right. They're POP, persistently—
[00:50:53] Shanna Swan: Persistent organic pollutants, yeah.
[00:50:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:55] Shanna Swan: Those are the original bad guys that were banned. And there were really bad. They're things like DDTs and PCBs and dioxins and things that were clearly no-nos so those were the first to be banned, but there are persistence right now, not maybe as persistent. So let's talk about persistence for a little bit. It means how long does it stay in the body and phthalates and the bisphenol, which we haven't talked about, make plastic hard, also bad actors. They leave really quickly because they're water-soluble. Anything that's water-soluble will be peed out, to get rid of it. So that's good. But if it's fat-soluble, It's going to be stored in fat.
[00:51:33] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:51:34] Shanna Swan: So the persistence will stick around and there's a whole class of chemicals, the PFAS chemicals, which we haven't talked about. And they are the flame retardants. And so these are chemicals stick around longer, but not like those really bad POPs. The ones like DDT, which is wrapped forever and dioxins and so on.
[00:51:56] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Dr. Shanna Swan. We'll be writing.
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[00:53:43] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. I really appreciate it. I love these conversations. I really love hearing from you after these conversations. And of course, I got to keep the lights on around here. So all those sponsors and codes and URLs, they get kind of complicated and icky and mucky sometimes. We put them all in one place on one page, jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you're on the market for a freaking mattress or some kind of trimmer for your — you know what — go to jordanharbinger.com/deals, and please consider supporting those who support us.
[00:54:12] Now for the rest of my conversation with Dr. Shanna Swan.
[00:54:17] If this is stored in fat, if I lose fat through diet and exercise, am I agitating these things back into my bloodstream from those fat cells?
[00:54:26] Shanna Swan: I don't know. It's a great question. Sure. Somebody knows, but I haven't studied that. So I can't answer that. That's a really, really good question.
[00:54:35] Jordan Harbinger: What about if I eat some animal that's in the woods and it's been getting flame retardants from eating? I don't know something that was in there, some flame retardants that was sprayed on a bunch of houses or something like that. And then I shoot that deer and eat it. Am I getting all of those fat-soluble chemicals? I'm just ingesting all that stuff, even though it's been a years.
[00:54:53] Shanna Swan: Yes, yes.
[00:54:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh god, that's horrible.
[00:54:55] Shanna Swan: Yes. And by the way, we haven't mentioned metals. For example, you have to wash the fish that you eat.
[00:55:00] Jordan Harbinger: I'm having sushi for lunch and I'm like, there's mercury in there for sure.
[00:55:04] Shanna Swan: Yeah. You're onto that.
[00:55:06] Jordan Harbinger: Man, yeah, but tell me about it. Because I think a lot of people have heard of this, but we don't really know where we think, "Oh, it's so small or it's only in tuna. That's kind of where I wrote it off, but it's not really true, is it?
[00:55:15] Shanna Swan: No, I mean, tuna is certainly a risk. You know, there are lists of fish that are some are better than others, but they're whole studies that have looked at, for example, one in Denmark in the Faroe Islands where they actually looked really carefully at all the fish because they were fishers and show that there were huge impacts on brain development and immune function, which is very important right now because of COVID. Those children that were more highly exposed, had less response to vaccination.
[00:55:44] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:55:45] Shanna Swan: It's getting at us from every direction and we just have to better regulate what's in the food we eat and things we put on our body.
[00:55:53] Jordan Harbinger: So if it's fat-soluble — and maybe this are two different sources of fat. So I could be talking out the wrong end here — but if like my wife breastfed our kids, but if she had something stuck in her fat, isn't some of that getting into breast milk, which has—
[00:56:05] Shanna Swan: Absolutely.
[00:56:06] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, great.
[00:56:06] Shanna Swan: Yep.
[00:56:06] Jordan Harbinger: Well, that's also super unfortunate.
[00:56:09] Shanna Swan: Yeah. There's been a lot of studies of the levels of these chemicals in breast milk. And it's definitely in there. And by the way, when a woman is pregnant and she's carrying these fat-soluble chemicals, she will offload them onto her first born.
[00:56:23] Jordan Harbinger: Oh god.
[00:56:23] Shanna Swan: So their exposure in the firstborn is greater than the exposure in the next and next, next. So she gradually gets rid of them with her pregnancy, not so nice for the kids.
[00:56:31] Jordan Harbinger: No, that's interesting though. I'm wondering why the body is just like, "Oh, finally, a chance to get rid of all this. I'm just going to put it in my offspring. That's carrying my DNA into the future."
[00:56:39] Shanna Swan: Right.
[00:56:39] Jordan Harbinger: That could go wrong. Tell me about microplastics. We know there's a ton of plastic in the ocean. We've heard about this, like Texas-sized, garbage patch of plastic and things like that but I recently stopped using, you know, a bunch of those like scrubby things for the shower. And I looked at what those little beads are. Because I figured they were bamboo or sand or something. No, they're plastic beads. I immediately stopped washing that stuff down the drain because I figure it's, unfortunately, a little bit safer in a landfill and there's natural stuff that uses like bamboo instead, but they're so small, you can't even see them. So are there just trillions upon trillions of these little plastic beads then in the ocean?
[00:57:20] Shanna Swan: Absolutely. In the ocean, in the water, in our roads, and they're everywhere. They're in our clothing. Clothing that's made from recycled plastic bottles, for example, is going to put these chemicals into our bodies, through our skin. We have dermal absorption of these chemicals as well.
[00:57:36] Jordan Harbinger: Really? You can absorb plastic through your skin.
[00:57:38] Shanna Swan: Yes, absolutely.
[00:57:39] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:57:39] Shanna Swan: Not the plastic, but the chemicals put out by the plastic.
[00:57:42] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, yeah.
[00:57:43] Shanna Swan: And by the way, even before going to the recycling, if we have chemicals that have phthalates in them like phthalates actually have the ability to increase absorption. They help cosmetics be absorbed and they hold scent and color. So they're in every fragrance.
[00:57:59] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:57:59] Shanna Swan: Every fragrance, every bit of lipstick, every bit of nail polish, you're getting phthalates breathing it through your skin. You know, if you put a hand cream on your skin, you'll come back later, half hour later, it's gone, right?
[00:58:12] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm, yeah. The good one is.
[00:58:13] Shanna Swan: It was absorbed.
[00:58:14] Jordan Harbinger: The oily ones aren't, right? Phthalate-free ones probably no, yeah. Oh my gosh.
[00:58:18] Shanna Swan: Some are absorbed, yeah.
[00:58:20] Jordan Harbinger: What am I looking at in my medicine cabinet then for things that have phthalates? Is it going to say like phthalates are in here? Like, is it a phthalate one or is it some other fancy name that I can't detect?
[00:58:29] Shanna Swan: Not going to be on there. Medicine cabinet is not necessarily where you keep your cosmetics. You don't use cosmetics, but personal care products.
[00:58:36] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:58:37] Shanna Swan: But there are coatings on medications that have phthalates in them and have been shown measurable, you know, exposure to phthalates through certain medication because the coating contains phthalates.
[00:58:49] Jordan Harbinger: So can I not find these things that I have that have phthalates because they're just not going to tell me if it's in there.
[00:58:53] Shanna Swan: That's right.
[00:58:54] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. That's so wrong somehow.
[00:58:59] Shanna Swan: You have to go to an educated website. We have resources in Countdown that tell you where to look up things. If you want to know where X, Y, and Z is. But the several ones you remember is EWG. So EWG has in this list of consumer products and you can look up under cosmetics, you can look under sunscreen. You can look under cleaning products and get some sense of what's one thing safer than the other.
[00:59:24] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:59:25] Shanna Swan: You know, it's a moving target. And by the way, not everybody has the resources to do that. Either the knowledge to do it, to look it up or the money to pay for these because the better products tend to be more expensive.
[00:59:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I was going to say, if you get all-natural stuff, great, but now you're going to like Aesop where it's a hundred bucks for some face cream, instead of just like 3.99 at CVS.
[00:59:44] Shanna Swan: That's right.
[00:59:44] Jordan Harbinger: But it sounds like we just live in an alphabet soup of harmful chemicals. You wrote that many chemicals that were harmful and got a lot of bad press and negative attention were simply replaced with other chemicals that are equally harmful, but maybe just don't have as bad of a press rep. They're just lesser known. So it sounds like, "Oh, we got rid of phthalates. Now, we've got some other thing in there, that's not phthalates but 10 times worse or the same amount of bad." And we can just say, "Hey, we got rid of phthalates. Phthalate-free over here. Buy this."
[01:00:14] Shanna Swan: Yeah, you're describing something which we in a field like to call regrettable substitution. So it's when consumers make a big fuss about a product like BPA — you know, you have had a baby, so, you know, BPA-free water bottle, baby bottles, right?
[01:00:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:32] Shanna Swan: Or if you run, water bottle says BPA-free. Great that's because people don't want BPA. But what they don't know is that instead of BPA — BPA stands for bisphenol A, but there are other forms of bisphenols, not very different, just tweak one or two chemicals and you'll get BPF or BPS and those don't have to be labeled because all it's saying is BPA-free.
[01:00:56] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:00:57] Shanna Swan: It doesn't say BPF-free, it doesn't say BPS-free, right?
[01:00:59] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[01:01:00] Shanna Swan: So you buy this and it has BPF or BPS, and then you get the same harm or maybe close to, and your trick. It's a trick.
[01:01:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:01:09] Shanna Swan: I feel that consumers should be really angry about this.
[01:01:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's like, we're forced to play whack-a-mole and say, "That chemical is bad. Finally, we got it banned, okay. We've got some legislation or at least the reputation of this is so bad, nobody's going to buy anything with that in there." Oh, now we've got another one. It's the same thing with a tweak on the end because they hired a chemist to just make it look different. So we could legally say, it's not in there.
[01:01:29] Shanna Swan: Exactly.
[01:01:29] Jordan Harbinger: Now, we're spending five years getting rid of that thing. And then, you know, 50 years later, the whole thing is finally banned because it's causing millions and millions of birth defects or something along those lines that never go away. I mean, that's just criminal almost in nature to do this.
[01:01:44] Shanna Swan: Right. It really is deception. In our TIDES study, I told you. We looked at how much there was a very bad phthalate called DEHP, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate. It lowers testosterone. It's one of the bad actors and we compare it to how much there wasn't an earlier study and had gone down 50 percent. I was thrilled.
[01:02:04] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:02:04] Shanna Swan: I was like, wow.
[01:02:05] Jordan Harbinger: Until?
[01:02:06] Shanna Swan: Until I found out that there were other phthalates that have been substituted that have gone up and they seem to do the same thing.
[01:02:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:02:14] Shanna Swan: You know, to do these studies. I studied DEHP for well, more than 10 years, and that study costs close to $10 million, those two studies. That's just one class of chemicals. And so you think about switching those out — well, those later ones were never even measured in the first study.
[01:02:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:02:34] Shanna Swan: So now we have to do it all again.
[01:02:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:02:36] Shanna Swan: I have to write my grant. I have to get my five-million-dollar grant. I have to enroll the women. I have to take five years to do that study and maybe another five years to replicate it. And then maybe I can say this other phthalate is just as bad.
[01:02:49] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Yeah. You need to live to 300 years old and have two billion dollars of research funding. And then we can finally solve this problem.
[01:02:55] Shanna Swan: Right, right, exactly.
[01:02:57] Jordan Harbinger: Geez.
[01:02:57] Shanna Swan: Yeah.
[01:02:58] Jordan Harbinger: Do we pass these things down to our kids that, you know, epigenetics? I'm sure you're familiar with this. They flip switches in our body. Like what if my grandpa worked with pineapples or something like that, did he end up getting that, giving some of this problem to my dad who ended up giving it to me? And now we've got like three generations of compounding effects of these chemicals in our bodies.
[01:03:20] Shanna Swan: Yes, your grandmother was exposed and your father say was in utero, and then your father had in his body germ cells that would go on to produce the next generation from his sperm. So you've got three generations there. You can see the three generations are already affected by the exposure to your grandmother.
[01:03:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:03:44] Shanna Swan: And now some people say it goes further. Some people say it goes up to seven generations.
[01:03:48] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[01:03:49] Shanna Swan: I haven't done that work, and I believe that people have done it, but I don't want to talk about it because it's not my field, but certainly I very clearly understand these three generations. And here's the good news. You ready for some good news?
[01:04:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, how about some good news? Yeah.
[01:04:03] Shanna Swan: The good news is — and this is a study that was done by Pat Hunt from University of Washington. So she took a mouse that had been messed up by let's just say DEHP. I don't remember exactly which chemicals, but he had low sperm count, AGD, blah, blah, blah. So he was messed up and then he went on to make and actually produce offspring. And those offspring were kept in a very clean environment, no phthalates, no bisphenol, you know, very clean environment. Those offspring went on to produce more offspring with females that had also been kept in a clean environment. And so this continued for three generations. After three generations, the male function was completely restored. There was no problem with the testosterone, with the anogenital distance, the fertility was restored. Yes, by cleaning up successive generations, we can stop this. It doesn't have to go on forever. But what we have to do is stop exposing people in subsequent—
[01:05:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah, the trick is making — the cleaning up of the environment part that you mentioned before.
[01:05:14] Shanna Swan: Right.
[01:05:14] Jordan Harbinger: But it just seems like if my grandmother is exposed to my father is also exposed, not just from my grandmother, but just from, let's say they grew up in Detroit, which is true and they're exposed to lead in the air from gasoline or whatever. And then, let's say I grow up in that same environment and let's pretend that they're still lead and gasoline everywhere because nothing changes — phthalates come to mind — then I have the damage from my grandmother damage from my dad, and now my own damage that I'm exposed to. So I was born with, let's say 2X, you know, two notches of damage. Now, I'm getting my own. And then it just seems like it compounds over time. Like you said, until we clean up the environment, but that's kind of like until pigs fly, we're going to still be exposed to phthalates and chemicals that cause reproductive harm.
[01:05:56] Shanna Swan: Yeah, by the way, let me just say, because you said this in passing very fast — lead was a success story. Lead was cleaned up. So let's not forget that.
[01:06:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:06:05] Shanna Swan: Because we sometimes have success. Success is possible.
[01:06:09] Jordan Harbinger: True.
[01:06:09] Shanna Swan: It's just very hard, right?
[01:06:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[01:06:10] Shanna Swan: That's what we're going to have to do. And I'm not totally pessimistic. I think that there are some very smart chemists and well-meaning people of manufacturers who are really trying to clean up their products and clean up the environment, corporations that are supporting this research. So I'm not completely negative. I just think it's hard. And what it takes is people being aware of this. And that's why I wrote Countdown. And I think that the more people are aware of this and the more they ask questions and the more they demand safer products, the more it's going to happen. If we just write it off as, "Oh, well, this is just something we can't do anything about," then we're not going to make progress. So I'd like people to be aware that it's bad, but it is fixable. We just have to make a lot of noise and put a lot of pressure.
[01:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: That's why I'm doing the show, because if this was just—
[01:06:58] Shanna Swan: Good.
[01:06:58] Jordan Harbinger: —by the way, there's nothing you can do, I'd be like, "Well, that was a depressing book. It's probably kind of important for people to know, but I don't really want to expose my audience to that." But since this is a solvable problem, I want as many people to know as possible, not just so they're like, "Oh my god, I can't eat sushi again. And look at all these things I shouldn't put on my face." I mean, that's part of it, maybe, but the real take home here is, make sure you pay attention to what you buy and also make sure that you vote for things like when you see phthalates on the ballot or something like that, you don't just go, "I don't know what that is," right? You're paying attention to this because, yeah, maybe our generation or at the latest our kids can be like, "I can't believe my parents. They're still using this," you know? And they make this cleanup effort to turn things around.
[01:07:37] Before I let you go. I'd love to know about medication — speaking of cheerful topics, medication polluting waterways and drinking water, because I did not know that drinking water has birth control pill medication in it because people are urinating and it goes in the water and it just can't be cleaned up. Like that's really not only disgusting but also very disturbing that these molecules persist.
[01:08:00] Shanna Swan: This is true. And by the way, also things like medication for depression, for anxiety, these are in the water as well. And there's a wonderful project in Israel where they actually looked at lettuce—
[01:08:13] Jordan Harbinger: Lettuce.
[01:08:13] Shanna Swan: —that was produced. Lettuce, that was grown in water that had some of these chemicals in them and the lettuce conveyed the exposure as well, so—
[01:08:24] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:08:25] Shanna Swan: Yeah, so it's not only the water has things that are grown with that water and, you know, it sticks around. It's a problem.
[01:08:33] Jordan Harbinger: That is extremely disturbing — because of course, a lot of water for farms is just like pumped in from wherever there's water.
[01:08:39] Shanna Swan: Usually it's cleaned up. This group in Israel was using recharged water. So you take the water basically off of the toilet, do something to it, but not totally clean it and then put it on the crops. And so if you do that, you're going to get those chemicals in the crops. And that's what they show.
[01:08:57] Jordan Harbinger: That must affect animals though, right? Because if I'm a fish and I'm swimming around in anti-depressants and birth control stuff, that's going to affect my fertility. Or at least make me — if I'm infertile, extremely, I don't know, overly happy all the time? I'm not sure. What does it do to the animals that ingest this stuff?
[01:09:13] Shanna Swan: I don't know that, but I know it certainly does affect the fertility of the animals, yeah. There was a lake in Canada that a researcher named Karen Kidd, actually, she added estrogen to it. They let her mess up a lake, a whole lake, Canada, to have a control and exposed lake. And she exposed the lake to estrogen and the fish just didn't reproduce.
[01:09:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[01:09:35] Shanna Swan: So definitely, it has an effect.
[01:09:38] Jordan Harbinger: So the takeaway from that is, have a reverse osmosis water filter at home that you're drinking from.
[01:09:43] Shanna Swan: I actually distill my water.
[01:09:44] Jordan Harbinger: You distill your water. Yeah. What about showering? I know this is probably a dumb question. I'll drink reverse osmosis water that has, you know, quote-unquote, nothing in it, but does it matter if it's falling on my skin? I assume I'm absorbing less if it's just washing off my skin versus chugging a gallon of it each day, but it's probably still not great for me to have, right?
[01:10:03] Shanna Swan: You can get exposures through other routes than drinking. That's true. You could get dermally absorbed chemicals. And when we did our water studies, way back when I was in the health department, we did ask people how long they're showered and bathed and how they treated their water. So it all makes.
[01:10:22] Jordan Harbinger: One thing that stood out was the idea that we shouldn't handle receipts as in literally a receipt from buying something at the store. That seems so commonplace. That's bad for you. What's in there?
[01:10:33] Shanna Swan: Receipts, you know, are coded and that coding contains bisphenol A, unless the store had opted not to use a receipt with bisphenol A. So there is a choice, but most use receipts with bisphenol A in them. And a very nice study, Fred vom Saal did, he did the study of cashiers who actually put hand cream on, you know, regular hand cream and then they handled these receipts and the hand cream made it increase the absorption of the bisphenol A—
[01:11:01] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:11:02] Shanna Swan: Whether you use hand cream or not, you're going to get some exposure. I personally asked for an electronic receipt—
[01:11:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, email it to me.
[01:11:08] Shanna Swan: —so that I don't have to handle the receipts.
[01:11:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:11:09] Shanna Swan: Exactly. Exactly. You don't want to be touching receipts if you can avoid it. But these things are lined in tin cans. The same bisphenols are lined in tin cans. They're in pizza boxes. They're all over the place. Receipts or one source, but we want to be aware of lots of sources of exposure to these and other chemicals, which we haven't talked about.
[01:11:30] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. There's plenty more depressing stuff in the book if you want the full list of chemicals that are doing bad things to your body or not even—
[01:11:35] Shanna Swan: But also — you should also say, Jordan, and then in the book we talk about things you can do.
[01:11:40] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah.
[01:11:41] Shanna Swan: So we talked about ways to decrease your exposure and actions you can take and resources. So it's not totally negative book, right?
[01:11:48] Jordan Harbinger: Oh no.
[01:11:48] Shanna Swan: You just read it.
[01:11:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I did. In fact, I have a whole list of practical things. But I'm going to go over in the show close. I just don't want to have you list off something that I can post off.
[01:11:58] Shanna Swan: Right.
[01:11:58] Jordan Harbinger: Your expertise is already, you know, written in the book for that.
[01:12:01] Shanna Swan: Yeah.
[01:12:01] Jordan Harbinger: So yeah, people stay tuned through the end. I've got maybe like 10 things you can do, you know, from vinyl shower curtains to making sure you're not sitting in a hot tub every day, which now is my primary method of birth control. But this is both fascinating and scary. Is it possible that fertility will go to zero at some point, if we just do nothing about this or near zero?
[01:12:23] Shanna Swan: I don't think it'll go to zero. And the sperm count decline, that curve that everyone looks at, who looks at the paper or publishes about the paper of decreasing sperm count. We have to remember, that's a mean, an average. And if that were zero, that would mean that a large number of men would have negative sperm count, but you can't have negative sperm count. There's no such thing, right?
[01:12:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:12:46] Shanna Swan: So you can come close to zero, but you can't ever touch it. So that's like a technical thing, but you can get alarming that close. And I think we're getting alarmingly on close.
[01:12:54] Jordan Harbinger: Dr. Swan. Thank you very much for your time and expertise today. I really appreciate it. Again, fascinating and scary, and I've got a whole lot of practicals for the end of the show, but I really appreciate your time.
[01:13:03] Shanna Swan: Thanks, Jordan. And thanks for being such an informed host. I really glad you read the book and you liked it.
[01:13:11] Jordan Harbinger: You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Ishmael Beah, who at the age of 13 was forced to become a child soldier.
[01:13:18] Ishmael Beah: I started when I was 13. The first day that we went to war, I think it was the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me, just on the way there. Knowing what we were going to do, but it hasn't yet happened. Having this feeling that I was descending into some kind of darkness into someplace that was going to chip away from who I had been, that I will no longer get back truly. And then there was an ambush and then we started exchanging fire and people who look like us were shooting at us.
[01:13:46] And there was a kid that, when we're training had looked up to me, he was next to me and there was an explosion. And his body flew him and he was killed. There was blood all over my face and everything. And I just lost it. I realized at that moment, "Listen, if I don't shoot, I'm going to end up, like everybody else was being killed next to me." And I started shooting, shooting to kill and whatever could get you as high as possible.
[01:14:09] So you feel like you're kind of in a long nightmare, you took, that becomes a new reason to fight. You didn't want to come down from the high, but there's also because you're on the high, you also get addicted to the violence itself. So you constantly keep yourself moving, being high, engaging in more violence until you remove from it, which is why sometimes people are shocked when soldiers come back from fighting and they're traumatized. Sometimes they shoot themselves, they become violent. When you go and take out another life, and dehumanize it. In reverse, you dehumanize yourself, your own spirit, your own being. And it takes a lot of undoing.
[01:14:45] I was once a kid who loved hip-hop, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, learned Shakespeare, wanted to be an economist. And then I became a soldier and I started doing things that I didn't think I would ever be able to be in a position to do, but I did them.
[01:15:00] Jordan Harbinger: To hear about life in a war zone, where he fought for three years before being rescued by UNICEF, check out episode 622 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:15:10] You know, this is a tough topic because men, especially I can speak from experience, you know, this would be super emasculating. It's a core function of being a man in our eyes, the ability to have offspring and not have any issues with our dangled dongles. Why do you think Viagra is so popular? I know it doesn't increase fertility, but just even the appearance of not being able to do it is a problem. It's a billion-dollar industry. Think about that.
[01:15:33] Eh, you know, the hot tub issue is something else. After two kids, the hot tub is actually my primary method of birth control now. So sometimes, yeah, it's the hot tub, but other times it's something else. So if you're having problems with this, go see someone right away. And if you're not sure, maybe you go see someone early because that window is closing. And that's true for men and women.
[01:15:52] As Dr. Shanna Swan mentioned in the book, "As women's bodies age, their bodies become less resilient to chemical exposure." So as you get older, not only is your fertility window closing just by pure biology and nature, but also you're less able to withstand environmental pollution and there is pollution and chemicals in freaking everything.
[01:16:12] Here's a partial list. Okay? Smoking, obesity — eh, obvious issues — cured meats, sugary drinks sitting and watching TV, computer, whatever. That's not good for you. Maybe there's less chemicals involved there, but there's still issues. Cycling, right? We talked about that on the show and this shouldn't surprise anybody, but still ended up being something I wasn't expecting opioids, right? They cause DNA damage in sperm. They can lower your account. Antidepressants, something that you thought would have nothing to do with reproduction can also affect that. We live in an alphabet soup of harmful or potentially harmful chemicals. What we discussed today on the show is by no means an exhaustive list if you can even call it a list.
[01:16:52] I promise you a bunch of practicals as well. Here they are. You can raise your sperm count by simply skipping the hot tub or the sauna. You can eat generally clean. What's good for your heart, health, and immune system is also generally good for reproduction. That is a quote from her book as well. Also, wash your vegetables if you're not doing that already. No need for a special vegetable spray, just water is fine. You get some of those pesticides out of there. Also rule of thumb, stick to foods that don't have a TV commercial.
[01:17:20] Plastic wrapping has BPA, phthalates substitutes in it. If there's a commercial for it, it's probably not celery or something grown in a backyard that's sold as a commodity everywhere. Right? It's probably processed, wrapped, stored, loaded with preservatives, et cetera. Try organic meats with no hormones or antibiotics, if they're near you and you can afford to do that. That is something that I made a major change on because I didn't really think about it before if I'm honest. I grew up eating that stuff. So I'm sure the damage is already done. But look, I got two kids. That'll probably catch up with me and when I'm older. Also, when you're microwaving something, you want to avoid microwaving anything that's not glass or ceramic. But here's a little rhyme if you don't have a choice, maybe you're at the office — so talking about plastic types, four, five, one and two, all the rest are bad for you. Again, that's four, five, one and two, all the rest are bad for you. And again, try not to microwave any plastic or anything. That's not ceramic or glass and definitely microwave safe. Put some of these microwave-safe plastics. They might be safe because they won't melt or explode or whatever, but they might also leach. And if it's not four or five, one or two, then definitely don't do it.
[01:18:26] Drink reverse osmosis water. These are not super expensive. I realize you might be renting an apartment and like I'm not installing a filter, but you can also get some of these things that attach to the faucet. Reverse osmosis is the best kind. It's better than just a regular charcoal-type filter. It will get out a lot of the stuff that we talked about, the birth control runoff, so to speak. The water we shower or bathe in is less important. But if you have the means, go ahead and grab at least a charcoal filter for your bathtub, your shower. We're thinking about installing something like that as well.
[01:18:58] The book has a lot of general rules for buying cosmetics and things we put on our skin, but I won't go into all those here. Avoid vinyl shower, curtains, you know, the ones that reek when you open them and smell like plastic death. Surprise. Those are bad for you. Don't use air fresheners. Those are loaded with chemicals that diffuse into the air. Cheap carpets and rugs, same thing. Water or stain proofing on carpets and fabrics is also bad. I grew up just spraying Scotchgard all over the place, probably all over my skin and everything. Not great, definitely not ideal.
[01:19:29] You should have indoor and outdoor shoes. Now, I grew up in Michigan as a middle-class white dude. So we wore our shoes all through the house. It was disgusting. And now that I'm older and I'm married to an Asian woman, she's like, "Let me get this straight. You wore your shoes from outside into your home and then put them on furniture and carpet." And I'm like, "Yeah." So we don't do that anymore. Have some indoor and outdoor shoes you are tracking in some gross, toxic stuff just by walking in the door with your shoes, put those things by the door or better yet. Keep them outside.
[01:19:58] Hang dry, clean clothes. This is for you corporate, still in the office types. Hang your dry clean clothes in the garage overnight, outside of the plastic, so that they can air out. Don't let them air out in the house. You know, when you open your closet after you've got a bunch of clean clothes and it smells kind of funny, that's bad for you. Don't use mothballs either. And by the way, if you're under 80 years old, you probably don't use mothballs anyway. And if you're under 30, you probably don't even know what those are. So don't worry about that. But yeah, if you get something cleaned with chemicals air it out, outside in the garage. It's just not worth letting that crap in your house.
[01:20:30] There is a kit. We'll link to it in the show notes, it's called Detox Me, and it will show you what kind of chemicals you have in your body to urine test. It's not a blood thing and what you can do to get rid of those harmful chemicals. Detox Me, we'll link it in the show notes as well.
[01:20:47] Big thank you to Dr. Shanna Swan links to all things Dr. Swan will be in the website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books from guests. It does help support the show. Transcripts are in the show notes. Videos are on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please do consider supporting those who support. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:21:14] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same systems, software, and tiny habits that I use. It's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Hey, most of the guests on the show subscribe to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:21:34] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If he knows somebody who's into health or the environmental stuff, or maybe as little kids and should know about all the weird crap that's in their house, share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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