- Exposure to air
pollution, especially fine particulate matter (PM2.5) puts men at risk for
producing lower quality sperm.
- Study finds
strong association between PM2.5 exposure and abnormal sperm shape and
- With rising
levels of pollution globally, even the minute effects of pollution could
result in infertility.
, in particular exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5)
is linked to lower quality of sperm, according to a new study published in Occupational
& Environmental Medicine
. PM2.5 refers to tiny atmospheric
particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. The research team
suggests that while the size of the effect is relatively small in clinical
terms, with widespread pollution, this may well be one of the factors of
infertility in a significant number of couples.
pollution and sperm quality
several studies have validated the role of environmental chemicals in reducing
sperm quality and performance, the role of air pollution in sperm quality has
not been accurately identified. A new study observed the sperm health in 6,500
men aged 15 to 49 who were exposed to PM2.5 in Taiwan.
was assessed based on the guidelines set by the World Health
Organization. The study was conducted between 2001 and 2014 on men who took
part in a standard medical program during the time.
‘Exposure to air pollution, as minute as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is shown to be associated with reduced sperm quality, and may be one of the factors of infertility.’
PM2.5 levels around the houses of all participants were estimated using a
mathematical approach and also data from the NASA satellite for an average of 2
years. When the sperm quality including size, shape and number were tested, it
was found that there was a strong association between increased exposure to
PM2.5 and sperm quality.
- A significant
drop in normal sperm shape/size of 1.29% was observed with every 5 ug/m3
increase in fine particulate matter.
exposure also put men at 26% heightened risk of being in the bottom 10% of
normal sperm size and shape.
increased exposure was also associated with production of higher number of
sperms. The team suggests that this increase could be the body's way to
combat the detrimental effect of pollution on the sperm quality.
Limitations of the
results are based on an observational study and no causal conclusions can be
drawn out of such a study. Also, the research team had no information about
previous fertility problems in any of the participants. The research was
carried out on a particular population at a particular place and the results
cannot be generalized to the entire male population.
many components of particulate matter including heavy metals and polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons have been linked to sperm damage in prior studies, it is
not yet clear how air pollution can impair sperm development and morphology.
the ubiquity of exposure to air pollution, a small effect size of PM2.5 on
sperm normal morphology may result in a significant number of couples with
infertility," the research team warns.
- Xiang Qian Lao et al. Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and semen quality in Taiwan, Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2017-104529