Those who have always been suspicious of double-knit suits may not be surprised by this item, from the May Science 81:

"Traces of the flame retardant called Fyrol were found in the seminal fluid of a quarter of the men sampled at the University of Florida. Researchers suggested that the decline in fertility in America since 1950 may be due in part to the absorption of the chemical, which is suspected of causing sterility. Fyrol, like its close chemical relative, Tris, was formerly used in polyester clothing." Money talks

Fortune, ever aware of important business trends, reprinted this urgent dispatch from Reuters in its May 4 issue:

"GIOIOSH IONICA, Italy -- The police raided a suspected Matia meeting near the south Italian town overnight and arrested 31 men, the authorities reported. All of them were charged with criminal conspiracy. The police said a New Yorker, Vincenzo Coluccio, a 56-year-old building contractor from Brooklyn, told them that the meeting wass called to discuss the strength of the dollar and the difficulties of the lira." Text With Texture

American Fabrics and Fashions is a gorgeously produced, oversized quarterly that ostensibly reports on the fashion and textile industries but seems more perfectly suited to conspicuous placement on the coffee table. It feels great to read, largely because it's loaded with fabric samples. Then too, the graphics are quite extraordinary: An article on pleats includes samples of pleated material. The photo spreads are sumptuous, the layout off-the-wall. In short, a Whole Earth Catalog for the idle rich who find Town & Country too square. $52 a year from 24 E. 38 St., New York, N.Y. 10016. Gift Subscription

We noted in these pages recently the requests for complimentary suscriptions submitted to various magazines by two industrious staffers at the White House.

Herewith two letters to the editor of Forbes, which published the original request letter in its April 27 issue:

"Did they write to Mr. Coffee for complimentary brewers or Mr. Burlington for complimentary carpeting?" --Jane Highley, Crown Point, Ind.

"Since I feel it is important for the president of the U.S. to have the best imformation available, I hope you will accept my check (enclosed) for $60 to cover the cost of a three-year subscription. Please present it with my compliments to the president." --Joseph M. Magnelli III. Pittsburgh, Pa.

The magazine did. There, at The New Yorker

We were upset a few months back when Time's media critic, Thomas Griffith, spent two full pages trying to defent the thesis that The New Yorker "has become windier, more boring, less inspired and more complacent than it once was." Even more upsetting, perhaps, was the nonappearance in Time's letters column of a single missive defending the journal Eustace Tilley.

We remember a few good pieces in Time since the first of the year; many more from The New Yorker, including two installments each by Anthony Bailey, Henry S. F. Copper Jr. and Daniel Ford, respectively writing on growing up British in the United States during World War II, the space shuttle and the failure of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deal adequately with Three Mile Island; Calvin Trillin on a federal raid on duck hunters called Quackscam; Winthrop Sargeant on the opera singer Thresa Stratas; John McPhee on the boom in refurbishing small hydroelectric generating plants; Bill Barich on trout fishing; Anthony Lewis on Zimbabwe; Hans Koening explaining how the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica was the last to view the world as a manageable whole; Katherine Bouton on Antarctica; newspaper editor Jacobo Timerman on his imprisonment by Argentina's military junta; Elizabeth Drew (departing from her self-indulgent diary format) with a tough look at Interior Secretary James Watt; Roger Angell on the fine and difficult art of hitting a baseball; Frances FitzGerald on the Rev. Jerry Falwell; and wonderful fiction by John Updike, Alice Adams and Ann Beattie. Maybe there are still a few too many first-person articles in The New Yorker, but it still seems to be one of the best literary bargains in the world. Time, by the way, costs $35 a year; The New Yorker cost $28. Fame and Misfortune

Ever wonder what it's like to be on one of those Esquire dates, when an Esquire staffer gets to take out someone much more famous than he is? Here's Susan Sarandon in the May 28 Rolling Stone, talking about her date with Esquire:

"A lot of people would recognize me and say hello, and he would say, 'I don't think you deal with being famous very well.' It was that kind of evening. Every time I'd get off on anything I was involved with, he'd get off with himself and the trouble he was having with his love life. At one point he said he didn't think I'd ever find the right kind of guy, and I said, 'Well, what do you know about the kind of guy I go out with?' He said, 'Oh, well, we've done some research,' and that infuriated me. And when you're stuck in Brooklyn, in high heels, with their car waiting to get you back, what do you do? That's why my mother always told me to keep a nickel in my loafer. Except today, it would have to be 50." Spring Blooms

Good Reads:

John le Carre on the psychological horror afflicting photojournalists covering wars in the May American Photographer;

Jim Fallows on problems with high-tech weaponry in the May and June issues of The Atlantic;

Lori Andrews on genetic experimentation in the May Parents;

Southern Exposure's spring theme issue on the civil rights movement ($4 from Box 531, Durham, N.C. 27701);

The National Journal's impressive compendium of Reagan administration biographies in its April 25 issue ($9.95 from 1730 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036).

Cover of the month: Science Digest, dropping the discipline to a ghoulish level with blood on a microscope slide spelling out "GUILTY" and this cover line: "'Their Blood Cried Out For Vengeance' How Science Solves Crimes." Pressing On


Solar Living. It was bound to happen: the House Beautiful of the home-tech mags, and pretty good looking at that. $12 a year from Box 59964, Dallas, Tex. 75229.

The Wall Street Journal Magazine. This prototype, being mailed to selected subscribers of the paper, has a cover so full of type that it may induce sleep. Beyond that there are interesting stories (and cluttered graphics) aimed at the business person who has a few bucks to spend (reports on Maseratis and Ferraris, what photos to invest in), including a profile of

"Organization Man" author William H. Whyte and a delightful piece on folks who are addicted to using calculators as toys.

CHANNELS, a new monthly edited by Les Brown, the former TV editor of The New York Times, who describes it as "a magazine of serious thought about television for people who read." The magazine does read seriously -- perhaps too seriously -- although there are some gems here, particularly Richard F. Shepard on how New Yorker cartoons have portrayed television over the decades. As with the WSJ Magazine, the type heavy layout here is soporific. And one wonders whether CHANNELS can possibly survive in view of the death of the much sprightlier Panorama. $18 a year from Box 2001, Mahopac, N.Y. 10541.

Camera Arts, new from the publishers of Popular Photography, can't quite decide whether to be artsy or commercial. Consequently it suffers in comparison to the well-defined role of its how-to sister magazine, and seems pale when viewed against serious photography magazines like Camera, Zom and Aperture. $14.99 from Box 13893, Philadelphia, Pa.19101.

Democracy, a quarterly devoted to political renewal and radical change. You want Christopher Lasch on "The Crisis of Confidence" and Norman O. Brown on Marxism? You liked the '60s? Send $10 to 43 W. 61 St., New York, N.Y. 10023.

Comedy looks like the college humor magazine that never quite got published. The content is too good for college students to crank out, but the form . . . that drippy style -- black and white, lines between columns of type, photos askew -- that characterized every college literary magazine in the '50s and '60s. Call it pandering to intellectuals, all for the unbelievably low price of $12 a year from Trite Expectations, Box 505, Canal Street Station, New York, N.Y. 10013. Or call (212) 674-2429. And if you call right now. . . Custom Taylored

The editor's notes column in the May Washingtonian tells of food and wine writer Bob Shoffner, who is photographed pulling a cork from a bottle of Taylor California Cellars cabernet saugignon -- the same wine Shoffner has been touting in full-color magazine ads for the past month or so.

"I've gotten some complaints on that," says Washingtonian editor Jack Limpert. "He [Shoffner] says he did it as an inside joke. He did a tasting of these wines which Taylor won, and then Taylor came to him after the tasting. It's a very gray area for journalism."

This is a good month to buy a magazine: Both Quest and Qui are up for sale.

Architectural Digest this month begins publication of an Italian edition with an initial press run of 50,000.

Finally, a revitalized Hammacher Schlemmer has published a catalog that looks and reads like a well-edited magazine, and contains plenty of fascinating items. Calling 800-228-5656 will get you a free copy.