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Microplastics Found in Human Testicles Linked to Declining Sperm Counts

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Researchers have discovered microplastics in human testicles, raising concerns about a possible connection to decreasing sperm counts in men. The study analysed 23 humans and 47 testes from pet dogs, finding microplastic contamination in all samples. The preserved human testicles couldn’t be evaluated for sperm count, but the dog testes showed lower sperm counts with higher PVC contamination. While the study indicates a correlation, further research is needed to confirm causation.

Sperm counts in men have been declining for decades, with chemical pollutants like pesticides often implicated. Recent discoveries of microplastics in human blood, placentas, and breast milk highlight the widespread contamination of human bodies. The health impacts remain unclear, although laboratory studies show microplastics can damage human cells.

Environmental pollution from plastic waste has resulted in microplastics spreading globally, from Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. These particles can be ingested through food and water or inhaled, potentially lodging in tissues and causing inflammation or releasing harmful chemicals. A March study linked microscopic plastics in blood vessels to increased risks of stroke, heart attack, and premature death.

Professor Xiaozhong Yu of the University of New Mexico expressed initial scepticism about microplastics penetrating the reproductive system but was surprised by the findings in dogs and humans. The test samples were obtained from postmortems of men aged 16 to 88 and analysed using tissue dissolution techniques. The human testicles had a plastic concentration nearly three times higher than that in dogs, with polyethene and PVC being the most common plastics found.

PVC, in particular, can release chemicals that disrupt spermatogenesis and endocrine functions. Human testicles were collected by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator following a seven-year storage period. A smaller 2023 study in China also found microplastics in human testes and semen samples, while recent mouse studies reported reduced sperm count and hormonal disruptions due to microplastics.

This study, published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, underscores the need for more research to fully understand the implications of microplastic contamination on human reproductive health.

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