Home » Study: Plastic Pollution Reaches Human Testicles, Posing Threat to Male Fertility

Study: Plastic Pollution Reaches Human Testicles, Posing Threat to Male Fertility

by Richard A Reagan

A new study by researchers at the University of New Mexico has found significant concentrations of microplastics in the testicles of humans and dogs, highlighting a potential threat to male fertility. 

Published in the Toxicological Sciences journal, the findings indicate that these tiny plastic particles are pervasive in both human and canine testes, raising serious concerns about their impact on reproductive health.

The study found that every sample of the 47 canine and 23 human testes examined contained microplastics. 

The human samples, gathered from autopsies of individuals aged 16 to 88, exhibited alarmingly high levels of microplastics, with human males showing nearly three times the concentration found in dogs.

Dr. Xiaozhong “John” Yu, the lead researcher and a professor at the UNM College of Nursing, shared his initial skepticism and subsequent surprise at the findings. 

“At the beginning, I doubted whether microplastics could penetrate the reproductive system,” said Dr. Yu. 

The study identified polyethylene (PE), commonly used in plastic bags and bottles, as the most prevalent type of microplastic in human testes. In canine samples, PE and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were detected in plumbing materials. 

Notably, the presence of PVC was linked to significantly lower sperm counts in dogs, although a similar study on human sperm was not conducted due to constraints.

This discovery of microplastics is particularly alarming given the ongoing decline in male fertility. The study suggests that exposure to these plastics, some of which release chemicals known to disrupt endocrine functions and interfere with spermatogenesis, could be a contributing factor. 

Dr. Yu. explained that the type of plastic makes a difference, and that PVC releases especially disruptive chemicals.

The implications of these findings extend beyond individual health concerns, hinting at a broader environmental crisis that could have long-term repercussions on public health and fertility rates. With microplastics now found in environments from the highest mountains to the deepest oceans, the ubiquity of these particles in everyday life poses a persistent threat to human and animal health.

Dr. Yu stressed the urgency of addressing this issue, particularly for future generations. “The impact on the younger generation might be more concerning,” now that there is more plastic than ever in the environment, Yu warns. “We have a lot of unknowns. We need to really look at what the potential long-term effect. Are microplastics one of the factors contributing to this decline?”

The study highlights the need for extensive research into the long-term effects of microplastics on human health and fertility, as well as immediate action to mitigate plastic pollution at its source.

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