As smog and low air quality plague populated regions around the world, new evidence shows that air pollution may have a profound effect on the human reproductive system. This is according to a new study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a publication of the International Congress on Occupational Health. The researchers, led by Xiang Qian Lao of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found that this pollution impacts sperm count and quality.
According to Telegraph, the study involved 6,500 men in Taiwan and found a correlation between higher pollution levels and lower quality sperm. Specifically, the subjects had a 26% increased chance of being in the bottom 10% of normal sperm size and shape with every 5ug/m3 increase in PM2.5s (air pollution particles).
Fortunately for men everywhere, the results may not be as severe as they sound.
“Although the effect estimates are small and the significance might be negligible in a clinical setting, this is an important public health challenge,” Dr. Xian said in a statement to Telegraph. “Given 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.”
While modern medicine allows 85-90% of infertility cases to be treated with drugs or surgery, Telegraph reports that Western sperm count averages have decreased by 60% in the past 40 years.
Even though smog and air quality has improved significantly in the United States in recent years, there are still plenty or environmental toxins that could potentially harm the average man’s health. Even indoor air quality is often quite low in the Western World. For instance, the typical home air conditioning system will recirculate air pollutants such as danger, chemicals, and dust up to seven times every day.
Experts have cited chemicals, stress, nutrition, pesticides, smoking, and obesity as contributors to low sperm counts, and Xian and his team suggest that air pollution may also pull these levels down. Simply put, the modern world is hazardous to your health.
Telegraph reports that particles like heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the types of pollution that can be damaging to sperm. According to Newsweek, this fertility risk just adds to the many reasons to be concerned about air pollution.
“Although the effects estimates are small and the significance might be negligible in a clinical setting, this is an important public health challenge,” the researchers wrote in the study. “We advocate global strategies on mitigation of air pollution to improve reproductive health.”