Detection and characterization of microplastics in the human testis and semen

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Jun 15:877:162713. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162713. Epub 2023 Mar 21.


The health risk of microplastics (MPs) is a growing global concern. Evidence of reproductive health damage caused by the accumulation of MPs in males is still lacking. In the present study, 6 testis and 30 semen samples were collected, and MPs were detected using both pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) and laser direct infrared spectroscopy (LD-IR). The results showed that MPs were detected in both testis and semen, with an average abundance of 0.23 ± 0.45 particles/mL in semen and 11.60 ± 15.52 particles/g in testis. Microplastics in the testis were composed of polystyrene (PS) with 67.7 %, while polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were the predominant polymers in semen. Compared to fragments, fiber, and film detected in semen, the fragment was the main shape the in testis. The sizes of these microplastics ranged from 21.76 μm to 286.71 μm, and most (67 % and 80.6 %) were 20-100 μm in semen and testis. In summary, this study revealed for the first time that MPs pollute the human male reproductive system and that various MP characteristics appear in different regions, which provides critical information and basic data for the risk assessment of MPs to human health.

Keywords: Environmental exposure; Health risk; Microplastic; Particle size; Reproductive system.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Polyethylene
  • Semen*
  • Testis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical*


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Polyethylene
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical