Dr. Jacob Ronen is in the sperm business. Among other things, as head of Cryobank Israel, the country's largest private sperm bank, he guarantees that his stable of superior donors includes only tall, twenty-something ex-soldiers whose sperm has passed rigorous genetic testing.
But finding such super sperm isn't as easy as it used to be. Only 1 in 100 donors makes the cut. A decade ago, it was 1 in 10.
It's not just first-rate sperm that's in short supply. All of Israel's half a dozen or so sperm banks are scrambling to keep their liquid-nitrogen freezers stocked.Something in the water?
Simply put, the quality of Israeli sperm is falling at an alarming rate, and no one's sure why.
"People in Israel are getting quite a load of estrogen," said Laurence Shore, a retired hormone and toxicology researcher at the Kimron Veterinary Institute near Tel Aviv. "I don't think it's a good idea to expose children to such high levels of estrogen."
....[fertility researcher Dr. Ronit] Haimov-Kochman is looking into water quality. As a tiny nation with a shortage of water, Israel reclaims much of its used water and sewage, which is processed, used in agriculture and may find its way back into groundwater.
The water, she said, has been found to contain traces of ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic estrogen used in birth-control pills, which gets into the water through the urine of women taking the pills.
"You can't clean this from the water," she said.