The effects of China’s hazardous air quality are far-reaching. While it is well-known that the toxic smog is damaging the respiratory health of China's citizens and impairing the visibility of the government’s public surveillance cameras, now, many are worried the bad air is affecting the virility of Chinese men.
According to the Shanghai Morning Post, a state-owned publication, a local sperm bank in the city released data showing that sperm samples that had been monitored over a decade had been “affected” by external environmental factors. According to Li Zheng, the head of the Shanghai sperm bank, “when the environment is bad, sperm becomes ‘ugly’ and even stops swimming.”
“If we don’t protect the environment now, we will face a worsening infertility predicament,” Dr. Li, who is also a sperm expert at Renji Hospital’s Urology department in Shanghai, told the newspaper.
Li said that his study concluded that China’s deteriorating environmental atmosphere was linked to the dwindling amount of quality sperm in the country. Some symptoms include low sperm counts among men, as well as a condition called aspermia, where men don’t produce any semen at all. The study also found that two-thirds of the semen specimens taken at Shanghai’s biggest sperm bank failed to meet the World Health Organization’s sperm-count criteria.
According to a report by China’s Global Times, the lack of viable sperm as a result of pollution adds to the nation’s ongoing shortage of usable sperm donations. China’s sperm banks have long struggled with getting men to donate samples, with many hospitals finding it difficult to recruit donors. As a result, sperm banks have increased payment amounts to donors, hoping that more money will be enough incentive to get more men in the door. However, due to the lack of widely available sperm banks, and an increased interest in artificial insemination, many couples who are struggling with fertility issues are turning to the booming black market for sperm.
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A separate report by the Global Times found that one "transaction" will cost a couple up to 30,000 yuan, roughly $4,900. Couples are paired with a black-market sperm donor through online chat rooms, and a "broker" organizes a meeting between the two parties. Upon meeting, the donor will give the woman his semen preserved in ice.
State statistics published by Xinhua says that an estimated 40 million Chinese people suffer from fertility problems. While pollution may not be directly correlated to fertility issues, the smog probably doesn’t help.