Why You Need To Look After Your Sperm - Before It's Too Late

15/12/2017 14:19 GMT | Updated 15/12/2017 14:19 GMT

While not yet threatened with extinction, a man’s place in the modern world has never seemed more precarious.

And the reason for this is becoming increasingly clear – the environment in which we live is proving ever more hostile to the health of his sperm.

Earlier this year, a study showed the quality of sperm is being degraded by pesticides, hormone-disrupting chemicals, diet, stress, smoking and obesity.

This has resulted in a 60 per cent drop in sperm counts in Western countries in just 40 years, the study claimed.

As if that wasn’t enough to put the male of the species on high alert for an ever more uncertain future, a new study has revealed an equally worrying trend.

Air pollution, already identified as causing millions of premature deaths every year, now has another apparent consequence.

Researchers say there is growing evidence that it also has negative effects on male fertility – and the implications are serious for us all.

Make no mistake – the findings of both studies give rise to possible long-term implications for the world as we know it.

The latest research is the largest so far to investigate the health effects of fine particulate pollution on semen quality.

One part of the findings makes particularly worrying reading, and that is the likelihood of a significant increase in the number of couples likely to suffer from infertility.

Inevitably, a worrying point to note is that this trend cannot be easily stopped, for as individual members of society, we are unlikely to be able to escape inhaling these particles.

They are in the air that we breathe, no matter where we live, and until governments make concerted efforts to tackle the problem, it will not go away.

Breathing within a geographical location, be it city or countryside with high levels of air pollution, means we are extremely likely to pass fine particulates containing toxic chemicals such as heavy metals into our lungs.

From there, they enter the bloodstream, where in men it is feared they go on to cause damage to semen, a proposition the Chinese University of Hong Kong set out to examine, and it seems, has confirmed.

Researchers tested the sperm quality data from 6,500 15- to 49-year old men in Taiwan, which they cross-matched with fine particulate levels at their home addresses.

Although the effects were relatively small, their results revealed a strong association between high air-pollution levels and abnormal sperm shape.

Some respite for embattled men may be that the effects of the particles were relatively small, and other scientists say the study was only limited in scope.

Of course, it was already known that there are a range of common issues that lead to insufficient sperm quality and quantity.

These include previous illnesses, the use of certain types of medication, and poor diet. Genital injury, abnormal karyotype or hormonal malfunction can also play their part.

However, what the latest investigation seems to show is that the prevalence of air pollution means even small changes resulting from pollutants could present a major future health challenge.

And that, as both men and women who are confronted with fertility problems know, is the last thing the world needs.