Air pollution spiking risks of infertility: An inevitable issue



Air pollution’s consequences on environments, flora, fauns, human bodies, and the brain are not hidden anymore. The worsening quality of air around the globe has long been creating numerous severe health hazards for example cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disorder. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution costs the world more than 6.5 million lives every single year.

But a few recent studies are unravelling a more perilous effect of air pollution that directly impacts our future. Exposure to air pollution for a considerable time is causing an alarming increase in the infertility rate in the area.

The growing rate of infertility

In the recent year, the rate of infertility has skyrocketed; estimated one out of seven couples face fertilisation problems these days especially in developed countries. This issue has grown to be the cornerstone of dystopian science fiction. Various sci-fi based on this concept has been made; the most adequate example is Children of Men.

According to a study by scientists of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; in the past 40 years, sperm count in men has fallen by half. The study also revealed a horrifying figure that depicts a fretting picture; the sperm count is falling by an average of 1.4% every year.

This alarming and chilling revelation is frightening; and the most evident problem standing in front of scientists; what is triggering the rapid increase in infertility, globally? Now, the new studies on air pollution and infertility is making the reality much more horrifying then before.

A study of hormone measurement focusing on AMH (anti-Mullerian hormone)was conducted in 2018 amongst 1318 women in Italy, Modena. The results revealed that though women’s age plays an important role in the success of fertility; exposure to air pollution is equally responsible for the declining AMH levels.

Despite a considerably large population suffering from infertility today; only a very little research has been conducted on the role of air pollution in the issue.

How air pollution is making it difficult to get pregnant

Eight power plants which were producing harmful compounds like Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and exposing the near resident to air pollution were closed down in California, between 2001 to 2011. After the closure of plants, the PM 2.5 pollution level in the area declined. Surprisingly just a year later, the fertility rate in the vicinity shoot up.

The shutting down of plants gave researchers a few and far between opportunity to study the effect of air pollution on pregnancy. The not-so-astonishing result concluded that; there is a deep-rooted relationship between the worsening quality of air and the falling rate of fertility.

A study from June 2018 concluded that after undergoing (In vitro fertilization) IVF; the chance of unsuccessful embryo implantation is higher in women who are more exposed to air pollution (living near major roadways). Another study of 2010 found that women exposed to pollutants especially Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have lower odds of getting pregnant through IVF.

A recent study published in the journal Environment International; based on interviewing 18,571 couples from China Fertility Survey of Married Women found similar results. The study found that women who are exposed to tiny pollution particles ( 10 micrograms per cubic metre) had an estimated 20% more chances of confronting infertility issues. The study also divulged the sharp increase in the proportion of women not being able to get pregnant after a year of trying from 15% to 26%.

Air Pollution: the widening concern

The above studies are not outliners. Every year air pollution is costing the world millions of lives. Though now there is a rise in interest in the deep-seated relation between infertility and air quality; the presumption is not new to many experts in the field of fertility. Many labs have been studying the consequences of air pollution and pregnancy long before.

Fifteen years of research and studies have seen a positive increase in the birth rate just by controlling and improving the air quality in the lab where embryos are implanted after fertilization. Most of the places these days have an air quality regulation system in the IVF labs, all the labs are boosting their air quality metrics.

There are multiple theories of why airborne pollutants are affecting fertility in such disastrous ways, but still, there is no conclusive theory which is accepted worldwide.

Gaskins, a researched of public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School says; “As we start putting out more and more good research demonstrating this link, more likely to be used in the policy. Most of the research has been in the past 5 years. I think it will eventually become more of a topic of conversation, and it’ll be interesting to see when that happens.”

Air pollution is fertility should be included amongst some of the most evident global health crisis. Climate change, global warming etc and now infertility is joining the list of consequences of the worsening air quality. It makes tackling with air pollution issue even more important because it is now associated with our very immediate survival.


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