Does Pollution Affect Infertility and Reproductive Organ Health?

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Is Pollution Shrinking our Penises?

Science is ever-changing, and it’s just now uncovering the long-term effects of pollution on the human reproductive system.

This burgeoning field is fascinating to us but also a bit terrifying. Not only is it possible that some levels of exposure to commonly used chemicals can lead to cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease in adults, but epidemiological study after study has demonstrated the toxic effects of these chemicals on fetal brain development and even the development of the genitals.

Practically this means that if you aren’t blessed with the penis size that you wish you had, it’s possible that chemicals and environmental pollutants are to blame.

We will tell you about significant sources of exposure, how you are being affected, and hopefully, give you the tools to fight back against adverse environmental effects.

Exposure

As seemingly intelligent creatures, human beings have “mastered” aspects of the environment. We’ve built civilizations, created art, and begun to explore the cosmos. But to get there, there have been some serious missteps.

With the discovery and application of fossil fuel, we’ve watched the earth’s environmental health begin to slip and are just now beginning to understand pollutions’ effects on our health. Environmental and occupational exposure to pollutants are having negative impacts on the human body, and most importantly, on our genital organs.

One of the problematic issues with pollution is that these chemicals are found everywhere: in plastics, in our toothpaste, in herbicides and on our plants, and up and down the food chain.

These chemicals are in the air we breathe.

Even wood smoke is being tied to averse sexual health.

Air pollution is a major source of chemicals. It has been found to affect almost every organ and every cell of the body1, including the many bodily functions regulated by the endocrine system.

This ambient air pollution is acting as an endocrine disruptor and leading to premature births, low IQs, cardiovascular disease, and (according to Dr. Shanna H. Swan) shrinking our penises during prenatal exposure.

So what do we do to combat these endocrine-disrupting chemicals with strongly negative reproductive health effects?

Avoid them the best we can and reduce our environmental exposures.

Until more is known, do the best you can to use glass over plastic, drive more efficient cars, and avoid chemicals that are known to be harmful. It’s a great reason to start caring about the environment.

Effects of Exposure

A pollutant is not a monolith, each one affects different body parts, and the most toxic effects are thankfully dose-dependent. Some are endocrine disruptors, and some affect blood flow. What’s for certain is that short-term effects often belie a larger problem for human tissues in the future.

Reproductive and Genital Effects

This is the crux of our fear, is that the effects on health are so wide ranging. Not only is pollution shrinking our penises2, but it’s lowering our sperm counts, decreasing our semen quality3, and killing our libido.

Dr. Swan cites long-term human studies that indicate chemical pollutants have lowered sperm counts by up to 59% from 1973 to 2011.

Long-term effects of exposure are even more insidious as pollutant particles work into disparate bodily systems like the endocrine system (the part of your body that makes and regulates hormones and, in turn, libido), the cardiovascular system (not just inducing coronary heart disease during intercourse, but affecting the strength of erections), and the reproductive system proper (decreasing sperm concentration and sperm motility).

For a female partner (and a potential child), the effects of exposure are even more severe. Multiple studies of in utero exposures had adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes, fertility, and fetal health.

One study4 found that ambient levels of air pollutants affected birth weight, retarded intrauterine growth, caused premature or neonatal death, decreased overall fertility. Umbilical cord blood samples further showed that many industrial pollutants are present in fetal development via ambient pollutant exposure.

Other Effects

Outside of the already mentioned reproductive issues, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency list the following:

  • skin lesions
  • altered liver function
  • lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • brittle bones
  • impaired immune systems
  • under developed nervous systems
  • cancer in humans tissues

A Special Note About The Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution is a particularly nefarious means of environmental exposure to chemicals. The World Health Organization calls air pollution a “public health emergency” and attributes up to 8.8m early deaths to it every year.

Air pollution causes inflammation and carries ultrafine particles throughout the body, slowly infecting vital systems with unwelcome chemicals. Scientists are calling the well-known heart and lung damage the “tip of the iceberg5.”

We know that exposure to air pollution is associated with adverse health effects. Still, links are only beginning to emerge about the effects it has on reproductive systems like the ever-important sperm parameters: sperm quality, sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.

Individual Pollutants, How they May Affect Your Health, and Where They Come From

Some chemicals have a larger effect on human health than others. Here are the pollutants you need to know and avoid.

POPs

Also known as “Persistent Organic Pollutants,” these toxic bioaccumulating chemicals adversely affect human health. They can be transported by wind and water and pass from one species to another in the food chain.

POPs were widely adopted after WWII and were very effective at controlling crops, preventing mosquito-borne disease, and industry; however, these chemicals negatively impacted human health as well as decimated wildlife.

PCBs, DDT, and Dioxins are a few of the more commonly known POPs. The so-called “Dirty Dozen” are:

  1. Aldrin
  2. Chlordane
  3. Dichlorodiphenyl Trichloroethane (DDT)
  4. Dieldrin
  5. Endrin
  6. Heptachlor
  7. Hexachlorobenzene
  8. Mirex
  9. Toxaphene
  10. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
  11. Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins (Dioxins)
  12. Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans (Furans)

These compounds were largely outlawed in the United States in the 1970s and 80s, but the adverse effects of their long half-lives are still being felt today. Animal studies demonstrate the harmful effects of exposure to these chemicals.

Dioxins

One of the most common POPs, these compounds are considered “Persistent Environmental Pollutants” that accumulate in the food chain and are easily ingested. Formerly a byproduct of herbicide and paper manufacturing, they are often released into the environment when waste is burned. Dioxin exposures in humans are most common in the food supply chain.

These commercial chemicals make their way into the human body through meat, dairy, and fish products, which is why many regulatory bodies monitor animal feed throughout the food supply.

Levels of dioxin vary in nature, but they are highly toxic when encountered in large doses.

Short-term exposure can cause skin lesions, and long-term exposure to dioxin is linked with reproductive harm, damaging the immune and endocrine system and causing cancer.

PCBs

Polychlorinated biphenyls are used in industrial processes to make electrical equipment. Like other exposure to POPs, high levels of PCBs have been known to have an adverse impact on the human body.

Lead

Lead is a potent toxin that is bioaccumulative (meaning that it adds up); while it depends on the level of exposure, long-term interaction with lead will wreak havoc on almost every system in the human body.

The occasional brush with diesel exhaust particles or average air pollution exposure isn’t ideal but won’t result in any long-lasting neurological defects. That being said, fetal exposure to lead can lead to long-term tissue damage and reproductive misdevelopment. Thankfully exposure to lead is falling.

As a result of the EPA’s efforts6, levels of lead in the air decreased by 98% between 1980 and 2014.

A Few More Commonly Seen Dangerous Chemical Compounds To Avoid

Bisphenol A (BPA)

A byproduct of plastic and epoxy manufacturing. Make sure your water bottle is BPA-free!

Perchlorate

A byproduct of the pharmaceutical industry that is occasionally found in drinking water.

Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

These chemicals are widely used in food packaging like pizza boxes and make brominated flame retardants and non-stick pan coating.

The effects of exposure to this chemical are similar to other toxic chemicals.

Still, this chemical is known to cause tumors, increased cholesterol levels, and low infant birth weights in some laboratory animals.

Bottom Line on Pollution’s Effects on Infertility

Adult exposure to these toxic chemicals is serious enough, but with the many risks that come with fetal exposure, it is of the utmost importance that we limit every one of these airborne pollutants today.

Ensuring that we live in the healthiest possible environment is a priority for Penuma®, it’s one reason we partner with the Save the Redwood Foundation, and it’s one reason we believe that it is important to educate yourself on how the environment can affect your health.

From a human health and environmental health perspective, the sooner we eliminate these potentially harmful chemicals, the better.

References

1https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(18)32723-5/fulltext
2https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5b4bq/pollution-shrinking-human-penis-sperm-count-fertility
3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7559360/
4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20336577
5https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/39
6https://www.epa.gov/lead-air-pollution/basic-information-about-lead-air-pollution

Disclaimer:

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.