Don’t Ask Me What This Means

23 August 2008 at 11:27 am 8 comments

| Peter Klein |

In 1999, a group of researchers including [endocrinologist Erma] Drobnis were working on a study comparing semen quality across major metropolitan areas, suspecting that sperm counts were dropping worldwide. They selected New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles for their study. But reviewers of the grant application recommended adding add another, more rural town. They selected Columbia [Missouri].

Researchers believed that including Columbia would serve as a baseline by which to judge the other cities. More rural settings, so the theory goes, tend to have fewer toxic pollutants such as smog in the air that impact reproductive health.

So researchers were caught off-guard when the Columbia sperm samples turned out to be significantly lower than samples from three other cities.

Here’s the story from the local paper. I’m eagerly awaiting the witty comments.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Ephemera.

Reflections on Cyert and March Best Three Sentences I Read Today

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe Champion  |  23 August 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Maybe they should have sampled three rural locations.
    How rural is Columbia?
    A similar suprise turned up from a health survey focussed on chronic problems of illness and disability in one small country town and the surrounding district in New South Wales, don’t recall details (it was 1976) but the explanations advanced included hay fever from pollen in the air, farm accidents, distance from quality health care.

  • 2. Rafe Champion  |  23 August 2008 at 4:33 pm

    On the topic of sperm counts, there is a story on the side of the that rural health survey. The Health Dept people up country wanted to find a project officer to run the survey and they asked us in the central Health Services Research and Planning unit if we could help. We had a lady (Dr X), a Canadian medical anthropologist, doing a short contract job and I offered to drive Dr X up for a talk when her term was winding up. Just before the trip she took three weeks leave and the day she was due back in the office our manager said, “By the way, Dr X has had a sex change”. We had a doctor in the office just back from Johns Hokpins, she said they are doing that all the time over there. At the district office the meetings went ok but about six people approached me at different times to ask how come I said I was bringing a lady up for the day. Interesting observation, the drive took about thee hours and a lot of the way Dr X talked about her three amazing brothers, one could do anything with wood, one was an electronics whiz and the third – can’t recall but you get the picture.

  • 3. Per Bylund  |  23 August 2008 at 4:41 pm

    As economists we already knew that, in general, urban areas are more productive than rural (non-urban) areas, didn’t we?

  • 4. Unit  |  23 August 2008 at 7:30 pm


  • 5. Warren Miller  |  23 August 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Maybe the participants had been on the lamb for too long.

  • 6. Peter Klein  |  23 August 2008 at 9:14 pm

    It seems that too few Missourians are taking advantage of local culinary opportunities, like this event.

  • 7. Donald A. Coffin  |  24 August 2008 at 11:47 am

    College students, depleted by, um, college activities?

  • 8. Alan  |  25 August 2008 at 7:09 am

    There goes the myth of healthy

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