Air pollution and human fertility rates

Environ Int. 2014 Sep:70:9-14. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.05.005. Epub 2014 May 28.


Background: Some reports have suggested effects of air pollution on semen quality and success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in humans and lower fertility rates in mice. However, no studies have evaluated the impact of air pollution on human fertility rates.

Aims: We assessed the association between traffic related air pollution and fertility rates in humans in Barcelona, Spain (2011-2012). We hypothesized that higher air pollution levels would be associated with lower fertility rates.

Methods: We calculated the general fertility rate which is the number of live births per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 years per census tract. We used land use regression (LUR) modeling to estimate the air pollution concentrations (particulate matter, NO2/NOx) per census tract. We used Besag-York-Mollié models to quantify the relationship between air pollution and fertility rates with adjustment for a number of potential confounders such as maternal age and area level socio-economic status.

Results: We found a statistically significant reduction of fertility rates with an increase in traffic related air pollution levels, particularly for the coarse fraction of particulate matter (IRR=0.87 95% CI 0.82, 0.94 per IQR).

Conclusion: This is the first study in humans to show an association between reduced fertility rates and higher traffic related air pollution levels.

Keywords: Air pollution; Epidemiology; Fertility; Infertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution
  • Birth Rate
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / epidemiology*
  • Infertility, Female / etiology
  • Male
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants