Air pollution kills around 6.5 million people every year (or 18,000 premature deaths a day), according to the Paris-based government body, the International Energy Agency. And while this sucks, it doesn't stop there. According to a new study, living in areas with high levels of air pollution could also be turning your sperm to shit.
Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have discovered that exposure to ambient air pollution "may serve as a risk factor of male reproductive health". To reach their conclusion, this international team of experts examined the total numbers, shape, size and movement of sperm collected from 6,500 Taiwanese men (aged between 15 to 49).
The study, published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, discovered a strong association between particle matter exposure and abnormal sperm shape.It links increased exposure to particle matter over a two-year period to a significant drop in normal sperm shape and size – also known as sperm morphology.
"Infertility is a global public health concern," its lead authors write, "It was estimated that 48.5 million couples worldwide were infertile in 2010. Although the effect estimates are small and the significance might be negligible in a clinical setting, this is an important public health challenge."
Commenting on the research, Professor Kevin McConway, from the Open University, said: "This is an interesting study, but it is important to be aware of its limitations."
"If I were young enough to worry about my fertility, I wouldn't put moving to an area with cleaner air at the top of my list; though there are certainly many other health-related reasons to live in cleaner air."