Effect of Environmental and Occupational exposures on Male Infertility

Male Infertility is a topic that has not received the attention it deserves due to various reasons associated with stereotypes about virility and the assorted reasons of societal and family pressures to keep secret the problem of when the males are infertile. This is especially the case in countries such as India where studies have shown nearly 50% of the couples who seek treatment for infertility report the problem with the men rather than the women. While the subject of this blog is not on the cultural and the social reasons, the reason for mentioning this has to do with the increasing instances of Infertile Indian Men who are exposed to various environmental and occupational hazards that result in reduced sperm count as well as decrease in the quality of sperm produced by them.

Occupational Exposures on Male Infertility

Indeed, recent studies have shown that stockbrokers and other professionals who work in high pressure and high stress occupations often report decreased sperm count and poor quality of semen on days when the markets crash or on days when deliverables are due. Coupled with other studies which posit that Indian Men in Metros such as New Delhi and Mumbai often

are exposed to fine particulate matter that results in their fertility being reduced, there are enough reasons for us to sit up and take notice of what is essentially an occupational hazard that needs our immediate attention.
For instance, a recent study by a joint team of researchers from Asia and Europe has found that on days and seasons when the concentration of PM 2.5 or the reading for the particulate matter breaches the threat level, sperm counts and quality of sperm both decrease which means that environmental hazards do impact fertility of men. As mentioned earlier, given the prevailing attitudes about fertility, it is often the case that maternal behaviors are accorded more importance such as advising women to not smoke or drink that can impact their fertility.
However, in light of the recent research, it is clear that men who smoke are also at risk of becoming infertile as are the other factors such as stress, exposure to lead and other metals as well as prolonged contact with radiation. Indeed, apart from particulate matter exposure, the research done in recent years has also found that welders, workers on the shop floor in manufacturing firms and cab and truck drivers are high risk populations as far as infertility is concerned. Compounding the problem is the fact that most Metros in India are highly polluted which means that sustained and repeated exposure to air pollution has been found to reduce sperm counts by as much as 35%.

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Apart from these problems that have been identified and measured, a little known aspect is that Sperm DNA or the quality and composition of sperm is known to be affected whenever men are exposed to polluted air and hazardous chemicals. A study conducted by Dr. Don Evenson showed that even intermittent episodes of exposure to air pollution has a detrimental effect on Sperm DNA quality. What adds urgency to this problem is that this is something that needs specific investigation and testing as often, the sperm counts are checked and tested whereas Sperm DNA is not so. This calls for specialized clinics such as Andrology Center which focus on basic and advanced treatments to treat male infertility. Indeed, the fact that more Indian couples are willing to talk about Male Infertility is proof that some efforts are being made to address the burgeoning problem of infertile Indian couples.
Having said that, it is also the case that other approaches such as changing jobs and relocating from cities and neighborhoods that are polluted can also help Indian Men address infertility. Apart from this, it is also advisable to not smoke which anyway leads to a host of other medical problems as well. To conclude, it is high time for us to act on occupational hazards and environmental problems and for a start, a conversation can be initiated.