Air pollution and infertility

April 25, 2017 | Press Releases & Announcements

In a newly published study, Professor C Mary Schooling considers the role of air pollution as an endocrine disruptor.

Many pollutants are endocrine disruptors that may reduce fertility. Whether air pollution also acts as an endocrine disruptor has rarely been considered. To fill this gap Professor Schooling and colleagues used an innovative statistical technique in a unique birth cohort to assess jointly the associations of exposure to several major air pollutants from conception to 8 years with pubertal development. Greater exposure to particulate matter <10µm in diameter (PM10) before birth was associated with later puberty in girls, while greater exposure to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide was consistently associated with later puberty in boys. Different associations of air pollutants with pubertal timing in girls and boys strongly suggests that air pollution can act as a pervasive endocrine disruptor. The next step is to find out whether air pollution is relevant to the long-term trend of declining fertility and sperm counts.

In summary, Professor Schooling says, “This study offers convincing proof-of-concept for air pollution acting as an endocrine disruptor, long-term relevance to fertility is currently under active investigation by the team.”


Huang J, Leung GM, Schooling CM, The association of air pollution with pubertal development: evidence from Hong Kong’s “Children of 1997” birth cohort, American Journal of Epidemiology April 21st 2017