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Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and semen quality in Taiwan
  1. Xiang Qian Lao1,2,
  2. Zilong Zhang1,
  3. Alexis K H Lau3,4,
  4. Ta-Chien Chan5,
  5. Yuan Chieh Chuang6,
  6. Jimmy Chan3,
  7. Changqing Lin4,
  8. Cui Guo1,
  9. Wun Kai Jiang6,
  10. Tony Tam7,
  11. Gerard Hoek8,
  12. Haidong Kan9,
  13. Eng-kiong Yeoh1,
  14. Ly-yun Chang6,10
  1. 1 Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  2. 2 Shenzhen Research Institute of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China
  3. 3 Division of Environment, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China
  4. 4 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China
  5. 5 Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
  6. 6 MJ Health Research Foundation, MJ Group, Taipei, Taiwan
  7. 7 Department of Sociology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  8. 8 Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  9. 9 School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  10. 10 Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Xiang Qian Lao, Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Public Health, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin, N.T, Hong Kong SAR, China; xqlao{at}


Objectives Environmental exposure to chemicals has been considered a potential factor contributing to deteriorated semen quality. However, previous literature on exposure to air pollution and semen quality is inconsistent. We therefore investigated the health effects of short-term and long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on semen quality in Taiwanese men from the general population.

Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted among 6475 male participants aged 15–49 years who participated in a standard medical examination programme in Taiwan between 2001 and 2014. Semen quality was assessed according to the WHO 1999 guidelines, including sperm concentration, total motility, progressive motility and morphology. Three-month and 2-year average PM2.5 concentrations were estimated at each participant’s address using a spatiotemporal model based on satellite-derived aerosol optical depth data. Multivariable linear and logistic regressions were used to examine the associations between PM2.5 and semen quality.

Results A robust association was observed between exposure to PM2.5 and decreased normal morphology. Every increment of 5 µg/m3 in 2-year average PM2.5 was significantly associated with a decrease of 1.29% in sperm normal morphology and a 26% increased risk of having the bottom 10% of sperm normal morphology, after adjusting for a wide range of potential confounders (p<0.001). On the other hand, an increment of 5 µg/m3 in 2-year average PM2.5 was associated with an increase of 1.03×106/mL in sperm concentration and a 10% decreased risk of being the bottom 10% of sperm concentration (both p<0.001). Similar results were found for 3-month PM2.5.

Conclusions Exposure to ambient PM2.5 air pollution is associated with a lower level of sperm normal morphology and a higher level of sperm concentration.

  • fine particulate matter
  • semen quality
  • sperm morphology

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  • Contributors XQL conceived the study. LC, AKHL and XQL designed the research and acquired the data. ZZ conducted statistical analysis. ZZ and XQL drafted the manuscript. All authors made critical revision of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was partially supported by Environmental Health Research Fund of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (7104946).

  • Disclaimer Any interpretation or conclusion related to this manuscript does not represent the views of MJ Health Research Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The Joint Chinese University of Hong Kong—New Territories East Cluster Clinical Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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