A new study published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, is suggesting that air pollution may be linked to poorer sperm quality. The study showed that exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution is associated with a lower level of sperm normal morphology.
The study looked at the sperm concentration, motility, and morphology of approximately 6500 men, ages 15 – 49 years, living in Taiwan between 2001 – 2014. Levels of particulate matter air pollution were estimated for each participant’s home address using NASA satellite data. The researchers found that as levels of particulate matter increased, there was a significant drop in normal sperm shape. This association was seen even after taking into account potentially influential factors, such as smoking, drinking, age, and weight.
Interestingly, the study also found that higher levels of particulate matter air pollution were associated with higher sperm concentrations. The researchers theorized that this may have been due to a compensatory mechanism to combat the poorer sperm shape and size.
Although the biologic mechanism is uncertain, it’s not surprising that poor air quality could affect sperm morphology and fertility. As prior animal experiments have shown, heavy metals and polycyclic hydrocarbons, both of which are found in ambient particulate matter, could have toxic effects on semen quality.
In addition to sperm quality, air pollution may also affect pregnancy. As Dr. Wisot mentioned in his article on our website this week, poor air quality may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.
With the fires raging in California right now, air quality is a significant concern. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about this right now. We just have to make sure we stay healthy in other ways. Eating a healthy diet, with lots of antioxidants, is good for fertility in general and may be particularly beneficial at times like these.
At Reproductive Partners, our thoughts go out to everyone being affected by the California fires. We are wishing everyone health and safety.