The effect of environmental pollution on reproductive outcomes has been studied in the context of an inter-disciplinary research program analyzing the impact of air pollution on human health in the Czech Republic.
Semen quality was evaluated in young men living in the Teplice District of Northern Bohemia where they are exposed to episodes of high air pollution during the winter months. This exposure was associated with decreased sperm morphology and motility, and increased DNA fragmentation and sperm aneuploidy. Sperm concentrations and total sperm counts in these men were not associated with exposure to air pollution. In a follow up study, conducted after measures had been taken to reduce the air pollution, associations of exposure with sperm morphology and motility were no longer apparent. However, DNA fragmentation consistently showed significant positive associations with exposure to higher air pollution (SO2, PM10). These findings suggest that exposure to episodic air pollution may result in damage to sperm DNA that could contribute to adverse effects on male fertility and male-mediated adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Studies of pregnant women and their infants suggest an impact of PM10 and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on pregnancy outcome as evidenced by increased intrauterine growth retardation and lower birth weight. These data suggest that exposure to air pollutants during very early pregnancy (the time around conception) may adversely affect foetal growth. Pregnancy outcome results suggest that pregnant women and foetuses represent a sensitive sub-population, and that air pollution may be a significant risk factor.
Taken together, these studies provide evidence that air pollution may be detrimental to reproductive health.