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Pollution is Mutating Your Sperm at an Alarming Rate

Illustration for article titled Pollution is Mutating Your Sperm at an Alarming Rate

People living in areas with airborne toxins and pollution are likely to develop 60 percent more mutations in their sperm than people living in areas with relatively clean air. Sperm mutations could lead to infertility for the man, or might make his children suffer any number of birth defects. Will this quickly lead to a world where more than half the population is some kind of mutant? Possibly, though a recent study suggests an easy solution if you want to protect your precious reproductive fluids.


According to the study that revealed these dire statistics, a HEPA filter could stop many of the mutations from happening. A release about the study says:

Mice breathing unfiltered, polluted air downwind of a large industrial area [near two steel mills and a major highway in Ontario, Canada] developed 60 percent more mutations in their sperm than mice whose air was cleaned with HEPA filters . . . The report expands on previous research and suggests that the mutations are not due to the animals' mixed genetic background.


Certainly we can't be sure whether human males would suffer the same rates of mutation as the mice would, but this study does demonstrate a causal link between particulate pollution and mutation. It also helps settle an ongoing debate about whether these kinds of mutations are caused by heredity or environment. Looks like environment is the main cause in the case of these mice.

AP Photo/Color China Photo

Germ-line mutations, DNA damage, and global hypermethylation in mice exposed to particulate air pollution in an urban/industrial location [PNAS]

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To be "kind" to Hamilton, the air has improved over the past decade (ie it was much much worse.)

This is actually good/bad news for places like India and China who have air pollution several times worse than the Steel City. Bad news is higher infertility. Good news is that they need to slow down their population growth.