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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

Car Fumes Put Brakes on Male Fertility

Pollution Damages Sperm in Toll Attendants
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April 30, 2003 -- Car exhaust lowers male fertility. That's the bottom line of a study that found sperm damage in men exposed to traffic pollution.

Everyone knows that smog is bad for the lungs. Now it looks as though it hits men where it really hurts.

Michele De Rosa and colleagues at the University of Naples, Italy, analyzed sperm from 85 men working as toll attendants on Italian highways and from 85 other men -- matched for age -- living in the same area.

The finding: Men exposed to car fumes didn't have fewer sperm. But their sperm were weak, short lived, and unable to swim properly. In short, they were damaged.

"All sperm parameters except sperm count and volume were deranged in subjects continuously exposed to environmental pollutants," De Rosa and colleagues write in the April 30 issue of Human Reproduction.

Nitrogen oxides and lead in the car exhaust appeared to be the most sperm-damaging ingredients of car exhaust.

"Health authorities should be alert to the insidious health effects of environmental pollutants," De Rosa et al. conclude.

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