IKEM study shows pollution lowers sperm count

It is estimated that in Prague, every sixth couple who are trying to have a baby need to seek help from fertility clinics. The last eighty years have seen the male sperm count decreased by half and the main external factors that are believed to be responsible are cigarettes, a lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet. But scientists at the Academy of Science's Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) say there is another important factor that needs to be taken into account. Their study suggests that a polluted environment seriously damages a man's fertility. We spoke to IKEM's Dr. Radim Sram:

"In the last few years we conducted studies on Prague's policemen and we observed that during the winter period they had an increased damage of DNA in their peripheral lymphocytes and therefore we thought that it would be of interest to also analyse whether this pollution in Prague also has any effect on sperm."

Could you describe how the study was made?

"We chose to observe the policemen because they spend all day in the Prague air. On this photograph [pointing to a photo], you can see one of the policemen who is carrying a personal device. When the air particles go into it, they are trapped in a filter. We are able to use this kind of monitoring device for twenty-four hours."

So you can see what kind of air the police officers are breathing?


If this pollution is affecting the sperm quality is there any way that one can compensate for that by eating specific food, for example?

"Based on our long-lasting experience, we believe that the effect can be decreased if you have a sufficient supply of anti-oxidants, which means Vitamin C, for example. The good news is that if you have this increased 'fragmentation' it is a short-lasting change that affects only the mature sperm, so this means for a period of about 8 to 10 days."

How is the quality of the environment affecting fertility in other areas in the Czech Republic?

"We learned just recently that there is a very significant problem regarding carcinogenic pollution in the city of Ostrava in northern Moravia where there is a lot of industry. The concentrations all over the winter which roughly means from October to the end of March are so high that they can affect the fertility of men."