High levels of air pollution
are to blame for a distinct drop in semen quality in Shanghai, according to the
doctor who runs the city's main sperm bank.
Sperm donated to the bank
at the Ruijin Hospital declined in quality over the last decade, the Shanghai
Morning Post reports. Currently, only one-third of the semen is thought to meet the
quality standards set by the World Health Organization, with many men
suffering low sperm counts or aspermia (the complete lack of sperm).
Zheng Li, who runs the
sperm bank, told the newspaper that male infertility was 'increasing year on year'
this decline to worsening environmental factors.
'When the environment is
bad, sperm becomes "ugly" and even stops swimming', he said. 'If we
don't protect the environment now, mankind will face a worsening infertility
According to The Telegraph, the report in the Shanghai Morning Post concluded by 'urging its readers to lead greener lives in order to protect future
Dr Li previously co-ordinated a study into the effect
of the environment on male infertility. Published in 2012, the study reportedly
concluded that worsening
environmental conditions had mirrored the reduction in sperm quality. His new
comments are not supported by any additional study data.
Anecdotally, at least,
infertility is on the rise in China. The Telegraph draws on reports from Chinese state news agency Xinhua claiming that China's
infertility rate has risen to around 12.5 percent from just three percent two
decades earlier, with doctors blaming air pollution, stress, and poor living
Yet many scientists are
sceptical about a link between declining fertility and environmental factors
and say that many of the relevant studies are flawed.
The Chinese Academy of
Sciences plans to conduct a five-year national study to examine whether
environmental pollution may impact women trying to give birth, due to
begin in 2014.