Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 3, 2021

Air pollutants and impairments of male reproductive health-an overview

  • Sunil Kumar ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Anupama Sharma ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Riddhi Thaker


Excessive air pollution, both ambient and indoor are might be detrimental to human wellbeing and are related to morbidity and mortality, it may also affect the reproductive function and its outcome. It is a recognized fact that air pollution contains several toxicants, gases, particulate matter, toxic metals etc. Some of them might affect reproductive and developmental process and a few are persistent. The information accessible on air pollution to human male reproduction is stated to affect semen quality by diminishing one or more sperm quality parameters i.e., sperm morphology, concentration, motility etc. and may causes sperm DNA damage, these might alter the fertility potential which in turn affect pregnancy or its outcome. The impact might be related to the pollutant’s concentration and duration of exposure. The data on impact of air contamination on endocrine function are inadequate, inconsistence and the diversity of existence of air contaminants in area to area and multiplicity in semen quality parameters assessed in various studies as well as study design variables complicated the problem of evaluation of impact of air pollution on male reproduction. The data available suggests the air pollution is might be injurious to human male reproductive health, which depends upon amounts of air pollutants in the air, duration of exposure etc. but more comprehensive data are needed to substantiate the findings. The data are also needed on indoor air pollution on reproduction as people are might be subjected to greater quantities of some of the indoor air pollutants as compared to ambient air pollution.

Corresponding authors: Dr. Sunil Kumar, MSc. PhD (Former Director I/C & Scientist ‘G’), A-10, Radhey Kunj Apartment, Shahi Baugh, Ahmedabad, 380004, India; and National Institute of Occupational Health (ICMR), Ahmedabad, 380016, India, Phone: +91 79 22864939, +91 94 26395738, E-mail: ; and Anupama Sharma, MSc. PhD (Former PDF), NIOH, Ahmedabad, India, Phone: +91 89498 59934, E-mail:

Funding source: Department of Science and Technology

Funding source: Department of Biotechnology

Funding source: Government of India

  1. Research funding: One of the authors (SK) is thankful to Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research, Government of India for providing the financial provision in the form of several ad hoc projects on various aspects of reproduction. However, no financial support is attained for the compilation of this work.

  2. Author contributions: All authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this manuscript and approved its submission.

  3. Competing interests: Authors state no conflict of interest.

  4. Informed consent: Not applicable.

  5. Ethical approval: Not applicable.


1. WHO. Report 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action; 2018. Available from: in Google Scholar

2. Nateghian, Z, Aliabadi, E. Aspects of environmental pollutants on male fertility and sperm parameters. J Environ Treat Tech 2020;8:299–309.Search in Google Scholar

3. Carlsen, E, Giwercman, A, Keiding, N, Skakkebaek, NE. Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years. Br Med J 1992;305:609–13.10.1136/bmj.305.6854.609Search in Google Scholar

4. Auger, J, Kunstmann, JM, Czyglik, F, Jouannet, P. Decline in semen quality among fertile men in Paris during the past 20 years. N Engl J Med 1995;332:281–5.10.1056/NEJM199502023320501Search in Google Scholar

5. Adiga, SK, Jayaraman, V, Kathur, G, Upadhya, D, Kumar, P. Declining semen quality among south Indian infertile men: a retrospective study. J Hum Reprod Sci 2008;1:15–18.10.4103/0974-1208.38972Search in Google Scholar

6. Geoffroy-Siraudin, C, Loundou, AD, Romain, F, Achard, V, Courbière, B, Perrard, MH, et al.. Decline of semen quality among 10,932 males consulting for couple infertility over a 20-year period in Marseille, France. Asian J Androl 2012;14:584–90.10.1038/aja.2011.173Search in Google Scholar

7. Huang, C, Li, B, Xu, K, Liu, D, Hu, J, Yang, Y, et al.. Decline in semen quality among 30,636 young Chinese men from 2001 to 2015. Fertil Steril 2017;107:83–8. e2.10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.09.035Search in Google Scholar

8. Sengupta, P, Dutta, S, Tusimin, MB, Irez, T, Krajewska-Kulak, E. Sperm count in Asian men: reviewing the trend of past 50 years. Asian Pac J Reprod 2018;7:87–92.10.4103/2305-0500.228018Search in Google Scholar

9. Najafi, FT, Roudsari, RL, Namvar, F, Ghanbarabadi, VG, Talasaz, ZH, Esmaeli, M. Air pollution and quality of sperm: a meta-analysis. Iran Red Crescent Med J 2015;17:e26930.10.5812/ircmj.17(4)2015.26930Search in Google Scholar

10. Kollataj, W, Kołłątaj, B, Karwat, DI, Klatka, M, Kozyra, K. Male infertility and human environmental pollution. J Educ Health Sport 2017;7:127–66.Search in Google Scholar

11. Nobles, CJ, Schisterman, EF, Ha, S, Kim, K, Mumford, SL, Buck Louis, GM, et al.. Ambient air pollution and semen quality. Environ Res 2018;163:228–36.10.1016/j.envres.2018.02.004Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

12. Zhang, HT, Zhang, Z, Cao, J, Tang, W-H, Zhang, H-L, Hong, K, et al.. Ambient ozone pollution is associated with decreased semen quality: longitudinal analysis of 8945 semen samples from 2015 to 2018 and during pollution-control period in Beijing, China. Asian J Androl 2019;21:501–7.10.4103/aja.aja_116_18Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

13. Han, D, Yu, M, Sun, J, Song, G, Yan, L. Environmental pollution on male reproductive health in an electronic waste-recycling town. Pol J Environ Stud 2016;25:1777–80.10.15244/pjoes/62259Search in Google Scholar

14. Kumar, S, Thaker, R, Verma, V, Gor, M, Agarwal, R, Mishra, V. Occupational, environmental exposure, and lifestyle factors: declining male reproductive health. J Gynaecol Infertil 2018;1:1–29.Search in Google Scholar

15. Burnett, AI. Environmental erectile dysfunction: can the environment really be hazardous to your erectile health? J Androl 2008;29:229–36.10.2164/jandrol.107.004200Search in Google Scholar PubMed

16. Tallon, LA, Manjourides, J, Pun, VC, Mittleman, MA, Kioumourtzoglou, MA, Baand, M, Suh, H. Erectile dysfunction and exposure to ambient air pollution in a nationally representative cohort of older men. Environ Health 2017;16:12.10.1186/s12940-017-0216-6Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

17. Wang, X, Yang, Y, Li, J, Bai, Y, Tang, Y, Han, P. Effects of fine particulate matter on erectile function and its potential mechanism in rats. Urology 2017;102:265.e9–16.10.1016/j.urology.2016.08.034Search in Google Scholar PubMed

18. Zhao, S, Wang, J, Xie, Q, Luo, L, Zhu, Z, Liu, Y, et al.. Elucidating mechanisms of long-term gasoline vehicle exhaust exposure–induced erectile dysfunction in a rat model. J Sex Med 2019;16:155–67.10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.12.013Search in Google Scholar PubMed

19. Jurewicz, J, Hanke, W, Radwan, M, Bonde, JP. Environmental factors and semen quality. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2009;22:305–29.10.2478/v10001-009-0036-1Search in Google Scholar PubMed

20. Sram, RJ. Impact of air pollution on reproductive health. Environ Health Perspect 1999;107:A542–A43.10.1289/ehp.99107a542Search in Google Scholar

21. Jurewicz, J, Dziewirska, E, Radwan, M, Hanke, W. Air pollution from natural and anthropic sources and male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 2018;23:16:109.10.1186/s12958-018-0430-2Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

22. Bosco, L, Notari, T, Ruvolo, G, Roccheri, MC, Martino, C, Chiappetta, R, et al.. Sperm DNA fragmentation: an early and reliable marker of air pollution. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol 2018;58:243–9.10.1016/j.etap.2018.02.001Search in Google Scholar PubMed

23. Hansen, C, Luben, TJ, Sacks, JD, Olshan, A, JeffayS, SL, Perreault, SD. The effect of ambient air pollution on sperm quality. Environ Health Perspect 2010;118:203–9.10.1289/ehp.0901022Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

24. Radwan, M, Jurewicz, J, Polańska, K, Sobala, W, Radwan, P, Bochenek, M, et al.. Exposure to ambient air pollution--does it affect semen quality and the level of reproductive hormones? Ann Hum Biol 2016;43:50–6.10.3109/03014460.2015.1013986Search in Google Scholar PubMed

25. Qiu, Y, Yang, T, Seyler, BC, Wang, X, Wang, Y, Jiang, M, et al.. Ambient air pollution and male fecundity: a retrospective analysis of longitudinal data from a Chinese human sperm bank (2013–2018). Environ Res 2020;186:109528. in Google Scholar

26. Rubes, J, Selevan, SG, Sram, RJ, Evenson, DP, Perreault, SD. Perreault SD. Impact of air pollution on reproductive health in northern Bohemia. InNicolopoulou-Stamati, P, Hens, L, Howard, C, editors. Reproductive health and the environment. Dordrecht: Springer; 2007.10.1007/1-4020-4829-7_10Search in Google Scholar

27. Selevan, SG, Borkovec, L, Slott, VL, Zudová, Z, Rubes, J, Evenson, DP, et al.. Semen quality and reproductive health of young Czech men exposed to seasonal air pollution. Environ Health Perspect 2000;108:887–94.10.1289/ehp.00108887Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

28. Liu, Y, Zhou, Y, Ma, J, Bao, W, Li, J, Zhou, T, et al.. Inverse association between ambient sulfur dioxide exposure and semen quality in Wuhan, China. Environ Sci Technol 2017;51:2806–12814.10.1021/acs.est.7b03289Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

29. Hammoud, A, Carrell, DT, Gibson, M, Sanderson, M, Parker-Jones, K, Peterson, CM. Decreased sperm motility is associated with air pollution in Salt Lake City. Fertil Steril 2010;93:1875–9.10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.12.089Search in Google Scholar PubMed

30. Zhang, G, Jiang, F, Chen, Q, Yang, H, Zhou, N, Sun, L, et al.. Associations of ambient air pollutant exposure with seminal plasma MDA, sperm mtDNA copy number, and mtDNA integrity. Environ Int 2020;136:105483.10.1016/j.envint.2020.105483Search in Google Scholar PubMed

31. Wdowiak, A, Wdowiak, E, Bien, A, Bojar, I, Iwanowicz-Palus, G, Raczkiewicz, D. Air pollution and semen parameters in men seeking fertility treatment for the first time. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2019;32:387–99.10.13075/ijomeh.1896.01355Search in Google Scholar PubMed

32. Chen, Y, Chang, HC, Chang, YK, Chiang, BJ, Liao, CH. The impact of ambient pollutants on the reproductive health on a population of infertile male. J Urol 2020;203(4 Suppl):e407–8.10.1097/JU.0000000000000865.018Search in Google Scholar

33. Lao, XQ, Zhang, Z, Lau, AKH, Chan, T-C, Chuang, YC, Chan, J, et al.. Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and semen quality in Taiwan. Occup Environ Med 2018;75:148–54.10.1136/oemed-2017-104529Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

34. Jurewicz, J, Radwan, M, Sobala, W, Polańska, K, Radwan, P, Jakubowski, L, et al.. The relationship between exposure to air pollution and sperm disomy. Environ Mol Mutagen 2015;56:50–9.10.1002/em.21883Search in Google Scholar PubMed

35. Zhang, J, Jianhui, L, Ren, L, Wei, J, Duan, J, Zhang, L, et al.. PM2.5 induces male reproductive toxicity via mitochondrial dysfunction, DNA damage and RIPK1 mediated apoptotic signalling pathway. Sci Total Environ 2018;634:1435–44.10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.383Search in Google Scholar PubMed

36. Wu, L, Jin, L, TShi, T, Zhang, B, Zhou, Y, Zhou, T, et al.. Association between ambient particulate matter exposure and semen quality in Wuhan, China. Environ Int 2017;98:219–28.10.1016/j.envint.2016.11.013Search in Google Scholar PubMed

37. Zhou, N, Jiang, C, Chen, Q, Yang, H, Wang, Y, Zou, P, et al.. Exposures to atmospheric PM10 and PM10-2.5 affect male semen quality: results of MARHCS study. Environ Sci Technol 2018;52:1571–81.10.1021/acs.est.7b05206Search in Google Scholar PubMed

38. Guan, Q, Chen, S, Wang, B, Dou, X, Lu, Y, Liang, J, et al.. Effects of particulate matter exposure on semen quality: a retrospective cohort study. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 2020;193:110319.10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.110319Search in Google Scholar PubMed

39. Radwan, M, Dziewirska, E, Radwan, P, Jakubowski, L, Hanke, W, Jurewicz, J. Air pollution and human sperm sex ratio. Am J Men’s Health 2018;12:907–12.10.1177/1557988317752608Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

40. Zhang, J, Cai, Z, Ma, C, Xiong, J, Li, H. Impacts of outdoor air pollution on human semen quality: a meta-analysis and systematic review. BioMed Res Int 2020;2020:1–9. in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

41. Huang, G, Zhang, Q, Wu, H, Wang, Q, Chen, Y, Guo, P, et al.. Sperm quality and ambient air pollution exposure: a retrospective, cohort study in a Southern province of China. Environ Res 2020;188:109756.10.1016/j.envres.2020.109756Search in Google Scholar PubMed

42. Sun, S, Zhao, J, Cao, W, Lu, W, Zheng, T, Zeng, Q. Identifying critical exposure windows for ambient air pollution and semen quality in Chinese men. Environ Res 2020;189:109894. in Google Scholar

43. Rengaraj, D, Kown, WS, Panj, MG. Effects of motor vehicle exhaust on male reproductive function and associated proteins. J Proteome Res 2015;14:22–37.10.1021/pr500939cSearch in Google Scholar PubMed

44. Guven, A, Kayikci, A, Cam, K, Arbak, P, Balbay, O, Cam, M. Alterations in semen parameters of toll collectors working at motorways: does diesel exposure induce detrimental effects on semen? Andrologia 2008;40:346–51.10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00867.xSearch in Google Scholar PubMed

45. Calogero, AE, Vigneras, L, Condorelli, RA, Perdichogizzi, A, Valenti, D, Asero, P, et al.. Environmental car exhaust pollution damages human sperm chromatin and DNA. J Endocrinol Invest 2011;34:e139.10.1007/BF03346722Search in Google Scholar PubMed

46. Rosa, MD, Zarrilli, S, Paesano, L, Carbone, U, Boggia, B, Petretta, M, et al.. Traffic pollutants affect fertility in men. Hum Reprod 2003;18:1055–61.10.1093/humrep/deg226Search in Google Scholar PubMed

47. Nassan, FL, Chavarro, JE, Mínguez-Alarcón, L, Williams, PL, Tanrikut, C, Ford, JB, et al.. Residential distance to major roadways and semen quality, sperm DNA integrity, chromosomal disomy, and serum reproductive hormones among men attending a fertility clinic. Int J Hyg Environ Health 2018;221:830–7.10.1016/j.ijheh.2018.05.007Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

48. Cannarella, R, Liuzzo, C, Mongioì, LM, Rosita, A, Condorelli, RA, Vignera, SL, et al.. Decreased total sperm counts in habitants of highly polluted areas of Eastern Sicily, Italy. Environ Sci Pollut Res 2019;26:31368–73.10.1007/s11356-019-06248-xSearch in Google Scholar PubMed

49. Rosati, MV, Sancini, A, Tomei, F, Sacco, C, Traversini, V, De Vita, A, et al.. Correlation between benzene and testosterone in workers exposed to urban pollution. La Clin Ter 2017;168:e380–7.Search in Google Scholar

50. Rubes, J, Selevan, SG, Evenson, DP, Zudova, D, Vozdova, M, Zudova, Z, et al.. Episodic air pollution is associated with increased DNA fragmentation in human sperm without other changes in semen quality. Hum Reprod 2005;20:2776–83.10.1093/humrep/dei122Search in Google Scholar PubMed

51. Rubes, J, Selevan, SG, Sram, RJ, Evenson, DP, Perreault, SD. GSTM1 genotype influences the susceptibility of men to sperm DNA damage associated with exposure to air pollution. Mutat Res 2007;625:20–8.10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2007.05.012Search in Google Scholar PubMed

52. Carre, J, Gatimeln, Moreau, J, Parinaud, J, Léandri, R. Does air pollution play a role in infertility? A systematic review. Environ Health 2017;16:82.10.1186/s12940-017-0291-8Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

53. Cordier, S. Evidence for a role of paternal exposures in developmental toxicity. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2008;102:176–81.10.1111/j.1742-7843.2007.00162.xSearch in Google Scholar PubMed

54. Okeigwe, I, Rydland, K, Robins, J. Proximity to traffic-related air pollution and IVF outcomes. Fertil Steril 2017;108:e321–322.10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.07.950Search in Google Scholar

55. Choe, SA, Jun, YB, LeeWS, Yoon, TK, Kim, SY. Association between ambient air pollution and pregnancy rate in women who underwent IVF. Hum Reprod 2018;33:1071–8.10.1093/humrep/dey076Search in Google Scholar PubMed

56. Gaskins, AJ, Fong, KC, Awad, YA, Qian, D, Mínguez-Alarcón, L, Chavarro, JE, et al.. Time-Varying exposure to air pollution and outcomes of in vitro fertilization among couples from a fertility clinic. Environ Health Perspect 2019;127:77002.10.1289/EHP4601Search in Google Scholar

57. Wang, X, Cai, J, Liu, L, Jiang, X, Li, P, Sha, A, et al.. Association between outdoor air pollution during in vitro culture and the outcomes of frozen–thawed embryo transfer. Hum Reprod 2019;34:441–51.10.1093/humrep/dey386Search in Google Scholar

58. Kang, J, Lee Ji, Y, Song, H, Shin, SJ, Kim, J. Association between in vitro fertilization success rate and ambient air pollution: a possible explanation of within-year variation of in vitro fertilization success rate. Obstet Gynecol Sci 2020;63:72–9.10.5468/ogs.2020.63.1.72Search in Google Scholar

59. Main, KM, Skakkebaek, NE, Virtanen, HE, Toppari, J. Genital anomalies in boys and the environment. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metabol 2010;24:279–89.10.1016/j.beem.2009.10.003Search in Google Scholar

60. White, JT, Kovar, E, Chambers, TM, Sheth, KR, Peckham-Gregory, EC, O’Neill, M, et al.. Hypospadias risk from maternal residential exposure to heavy metal hazardous air pollutants. Int J Environ Res Publ Health 2019;16:930.10.3390/ijerph16060930Search in Google Scholar

61. Huang, C-C, Pan, S-C, Chen, B, Guo, YL. Periconceptional exposure to air pollution and congenital hypospadias among full-term infants. Environ Res 2020;183:109151.10.1016/j.envres.2020.109151Search in Google Scholar

62. Sultan, C, Balaguer, P, Terouanne, B, Georget, V, Paris, F, Jeandel, C, et al.. Environmental xenoestrogens, antiandrogens and disorders of male sexual differentiation. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2001;178:99–105.10.1016/S0303-7207(01)00430-0Search in Google Scholar

63. Darbre, PD. Overview of air pollution and endocrine disorders. Int J Gen Med 2018;11:191–207.10.2147/IJGM.S102230Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

64. Rehman, S, Usman, Z, Rehman, S, AlDraihem, M, Rehman, N, Rehman, I, et al.. Endocrine disrupting chemicals and impact on male reproductive health. Transl Androl Urol 2018;7:490–503.10.21037/tau.2018.05.17Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2020-10-05
Accepted: 2021-01-05
Published Online: 2021-02-03
Published in Print: 2021-12-20

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 2.3.2024 from
Scroll to top button