Sperm DNA fragmentation: An early and reliable marker of air pollution

Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2018 Mar;58:243-249. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2018.02.001. Epub 2018 Feb 7.


Environmental factors could have a key role in the continuous and remarkable decline of sperm quality observed in the last decades. This study compared the seminal parameters and sperm DFI in men living in areas with different levels of air pollution. Results demonstrate that both steel plants workers and patients living in a high polluted area show a mean percentage of sperm DNA fragmentation above 30%, highlighting a clear sperm damage. In this work, two different techniques were used to measure sperm DNA damage in patients' groups, finding in both cases a high sperm DFI in patients living in polluted areas. We candidate sperm DNA fragmentation as a valuable early marker of the presence and harmful effects of pollution. We suggest that sperm DNA evaluation could be both an indicator of individual health and reproductive capacity, and a suitable datum to connect the surrounding environment with its effects.

Keywords: Air pollution; Apoptosis; Environmental health; SCD; TUNEL.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • DNA Fragmentation*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Steel


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Steel