What are the impacts of pollution on fertility?

The impact of pollution on fertility

You haven't missed it: environmental pollution is today reaching worrying heights. We know the consequences on the planet and human health. But science is increasingly interested in the link between pollution and fertility. Does our ecosystem directly impact our ability to design? Focus on this issue, its alarming truths, and our few tips for best protecting your fertility.

Reminder about gametes: The basic unit of reproduction

The exact link between fertility and pollution remains quite abstract. Scientists are starting to look seriously at the subject, but they still have a lot to discover. However, here is what we already know.

Impacts of air pollution on fertility

According to a study published on Cairn , we are increasingly moving towards a distressing observation: pollution impacts our ability to conceive children. The cause ? Organic (hydrocarbons, found for example in smoke), atmospheric, and metallic (such as copper, lead) pollutants.

The problem with these chemicals is that they affect our hormones in a negative way, and can damage reproductive cells. In women, as in men. Results: male gametes are damaged, and egg production is disrupted. These pollutants can also cause stress to these same cells. And therefore, create damage to the DNA of spermatozoa and affect future generations. Nothing very joyful, in short.

This article may also interest you: How to know if you are infertile in men?

Harmful effects of pollution on gametes

Science is therefore already able to confirm this: in our reproductive health system, the first victims of pollution... are the gametes.

According to a study by Public Health France , pollutants can cause several problems with human fertility. In humans, this can translate into:

  • a decrease in sperm motility;
  • a loss of quality;
  • congenital diseases.

Female fertility is also impacted with:

  • an increase in polycystic ovaries;
  • an increase in miscarriages;
  • a disruption of the menstrual cycle.

We can also note in both sexes a drop in sperm and egg production, and/or early puberty. As well as a higher risk of developing a chronic disease in adulthood.

The consequences of pollution on fertility around the world

In all four corners of the planet, we are beginning to notice the extent to which the consequences of pollution on fertility are proving to be deleterious.

China: An alarming case study

China, in particular, presents a worrying situation. A recent study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) explains that researchers analyzed the gametes of more than 33,000 Chinese men. Their observation? Air pollutants have reduced the ability of sperm to move properly. Results: the overall decrease in sperm quality would be caused more by environmental factors rather than genetic ones.

The rest of the world: Worrying trends

Although China is one of the most polluting industrialized countries on the planet, it is (obviously) not the only one concerned by the issue. In a survey carried out on male fertility, the media GQ points out an alarming fact: boys produce half as much sperm as their grandfathers. The World Health Organization emphasizes that 50% of cases of infertility in the world population could be explained by factors solely linked to men. And therefore, among other things, by this poor quality of the gametes.

Until what age is a man fertile? We tell you everything!

The culprits: Toxic components and their effects

So, who are the culprits for such a drop in fertility? Well, there are many of them in the dock. Here are a few.

Endocrine disruptors: Invisible enemies

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with our hormones and weaken fertility. We can name:

  • bisphenols;
  • dioxins;
  • paracetamol;
  • phthalates.

The problem is that they take up a lot of space in our daily lives. Examples include food packaging, cosmetic products, or toys. How do they work? It's simple: they mimic (or block) natural hormonal actions. And therefore lead to reproductive health problems.

Also watch out for the “cocktail effect”, i.e. simultaneous exposure to several chemicals. In these cases, the negative impact is amplified.

Other pollutants and their potential impacts

Other culprits for reduced fertility? Let's name, for example, fine particles (present in atmospheric pollution). Add to that pesticides (numerous in the food industry), and heavy metals. That’s actually a lot of people! Yes, all these molecules also have consequences on our reproductive health, since they affect the quality of gametes. And increase the risk of fertility-related diseases.

(Simple) measures to adopt

Come on, let's end this article on a more optimistic note. Rest assured ! To protect yourself (as much as possible) from pollution, and protect your fertility, you can implement a few simple actions.

Here is a non-exhaustive list, to consume without moderation:

  • Choose walking. Or the bike. You will do good for your body and the planet.
  • Choose ecological cosmetics and cleaning products. You will reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors.
  • Ventilate your house. You will reduce the concentration of indoor pollutants.
  • Filter your tap water. You will eliminate heavy metals that may be present in it.
  • Reduce your use of plastic, which is often full of chemicals. Choose glass or stainless steel.
  • Try to eat organic and local if you can. You will eat foods less exposed to pesticides. And you will support less polluting agriculture.
  • Take a course of fertility vitamins to boost your chances of conceiving.
  • Finally, adopt a healthy lifestyle and limit your alcohol consumption! There is a real link between liver and fertility . So take care of it.

Yes, we grant you: these gestures may seem anecdotal in the face of the environmental challenges we face. But their cumulative effect could really change the situation. And help you preserve, at the same time, your reproductive health.

The impact of pollution on our overall health, female and male infertility, remains a huge problem. But recognizing it also means emphasizing our collective capacity to positively influence the future. So we continue to inform ourselves. And we adopt simple, but responsible behaviors. Guaranteed virtuous circle effect: you will take care of your fertility, and – on your scale – of the planet!

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