Exposure to environmental ozone alters semen quality

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Mar;114(3):360-5. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8232.


Idiopathic male infertility may be due to exposure to environmental toxicants that alter spermatogenesis or sperm function. We studied the relationship between air pollutant levels and semen quality over a 2-year period in Los Angeles, California, by analyzing repeated semen samples collected by sperm donors. Semen analysis data derived from 5,134 semen samples from a sperm donor bank were correlated with air pollutant levels (ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter < 10 microm in aerodynamic diameter) measured 0-9, 10-14, and 70-90 days before semen collection dates in Los Angeles between January 1996 and December 1998. A linear mixed-effects model was used to model average sperm concentration and total motile sperm count for the donation from each subject. Changes were analyzed in relationship to biologically relevant time points during spermatogenesis, 0-9, 10-14, and 70-90 days before the day of semen collection. We estimated temperature and seasonality effects after adjusting for a base model, which included donor's date of birth and age at donation. Forty-eight donors from Los Angeles were included as subjects. Donors were included if they collected repeated semen samples over a 12-month period between January 1996 and December 1998. There was a significant negative correlation between ozone levels at 0-9, 10-14, and 70-90 days before donation and average sperm concentration, which was maintained after correction for donor's birth date, age at donation, temperature, and seasonality (p < 0.01). No other pollutant measures were significantly associated with sperm quality outcomes. Exposure to ambient ozone levels adversely affects semen quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Ozone / toxicity*
  • Sperm Count*
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dust
  • Ozone
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen Dioxide