Study links air pollution with reduced sperm production in mice

Exposure to tiny air pollution particles may lead to reduced sperm production, suggests new research in mice that was presented at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans in March.

“Infertility rates are increasing around the world, and air pollution may be one of the main factors,” said lead researcher Elaine Maria Frade Costa, M.D., Ph.D., of Sao Paulo University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 15 percent of the global population has difficulty with fertility, and male infertility accounts for about half of those problems.

The study looked at the effect of particulate matter (PM) on sperm production. PM is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Researchers studied PM2.5, a fine inhalable particle that is 30 times smaller than the diameters of a human hair. PM2.5 is known to disrupt the endocrine system, which is involved in reproduction, including the production of sperm.

The tubes in the testes that produce sperm of all the exposed mice showed signs of deterioration. The research demonstrates for the first time that exposure to air pollution of a large city impairs production of sperm, mainly in exposure after birth, Costa said. “These findings provide more evidence that governments need to implement public policies to control air pollution in big cities,” she said.

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