Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and semen quality in Taiwan

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ObjectivesEnvironmental exposure to chemicals has been considered a potential factor contributing to deteriorated semen quality. However, previous literature on exposure to air pollution and semen quality is inconsistent. We therefore investigated the health effects of short-term and long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on semen quality in Taiwanese men from the general population.MethodsA cross-sectional study was conducted among 6475 male participants aged 15–49 years who participated in a standard medical examination programme in Taiwan between 2001 and 2014. Semen quality was assessed according to the WHO 1999 guidelines, including sperm concentration, total motility, progressive motility and morphology. Three-month and 2-year average PM2.5 concentrations were estimated at each participant’s address using a spatiotemporal model based on satellite-derived aerosol optical depth data. Multivariable linear and logistic regressions were used to examine the associations between PM2.5 and semen quality.ResultsA robust association was observed between exposure to PM2.5 and decreased normal morphology. Every increment of 5 µg/m3 in 2-year average PM2.5 was significantly associated with a decrease of 1.29% in sperm normal morphology and a 26% increased risk of having the bottom 10% of sperm normal morphology, after adjusting for a wide range of potential confounders (p<0.001). On the other hand, an increment of 5 µg/m3 in 2-year average PM2.5 was associated with an increase of 1.03×106/mL in sperm concentration and a 10% decreased risk of being the bottom 10% of sperm concentration (both p<0.001). Similar results were found for 3-month PM2.5.ConclusionsExposure to ambient PM2.5 air pollution is associated with a lower level of sperm normal morphology and a higher level of sperm concentration.

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