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Israeli sperm bank posts diminishing returns

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Wall Street giants are not the only banks hit by diminishing assets. New research for an Israeli sperm bank shows that depositors are 40 per cent less fertile than a decade ago, the Haaretz daily reported.

Scientists at Hadassa hospital compared sperm taken from Israeli men between 2004 and 2008 with samples taken in the late 1990s, and were alarmed by their findings.

The more recent samples contained 40 per cent fewer sperm cells than those taken 10 years before.

"It seems that the cause of the change is an increased concentration of oestrogen in the water supply," said Ronit Haimov-Kochman, who led the research.

"The soil is saturated with oestrogen and fruit or vegetables grown in it are also contaminated," Haaretz quoted her as saying.

Biologists found two years ago that male fish in an Israeli stream developed female characteristics after being exposed to oestrogen, but so far there is no sign of Israeli men suffering the same fate.