23 November 2017

Protect spermatozoa from dust

Male infertility was explained by air pollution

Natalia Pelezneva, Naked Science

An international team of researchers examined the results of the analysis of sperm samples from 6,475 men and stated: there is a relationship between the level of air pollution with fine particles and the probability of developing abnormalities in the shape of spermatozoa. Scientists suggest that air pollution may be one of the reasons for the spread of male infertility.


The study participants were residents of Taiwan aged 15 to 49 years. Air pollution is the main environmental problem in Taiwan. There are several sources of fine solid particles polluting the island's air. These include enterprises located in Taiwan itself, and the wind also brings emissions from Chinese factories. Motorcycles and scooters, popular on the island, contribute to the pollution. Even local religious customs, such as burning incense and ritual money, harm the environment.

The men underwent a standard medical examination in the period from 2001 to 2014. Their sperm was examined by several traditional methods, including analysis of sperm concentration, motility and morphology. This information was compared with satellite data on the concentration of PM 2.5 pollutant in the air – a suspension of microscopic liquid droplets and fine particles up to 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

Combining the data showed that there is a persistent relationship between a high level of pollution and abnormalities in the shape of spermatozoa. Every additional 5 micrograms of particles per cubic meter of air reduced the index of compliance with the morphology of sperm norm by 1.29%. The dependence persisted even taking into account potential risk factors – the weight and age of the man, smoking and alcohol consumption. Exactly how pollution affects the shape of spermatozoa is still unknown. Scientists believe that microparticles of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can cause harm.

Andrology expert Allan Pacey he called the study interesting, but clarified that the assessment of sperm morphology is a rather complex method of analysis. Such data may be less accurate than the assessment of sperm quality by other methods. The authors of the new work emphasize: statistically, the indicator of dependence is small. However, if addiction exists, it can still negatively affect the quality of life of many people.

The study was published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine (Lao et al., Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and semen quality in Taiwan).

Earlier, scientists came to the conclusion that over the past 40 years, the number of spermatozoa in the sperm of men in Western countries has decreased by more than two times.

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