Microplastics Found in Every Human Testicle in New Study — Do They Impact Fertility?

Researchers found microplastics in every testicle studied, underscoring concerns about environmental hazards on reproductive health

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of microplastics.


Stock image of microplastics.

Microplastics were found in every human testicle examined for a new study, underscoring existing concerns about how plastic can disrupt the reproductive system.

The new study, which examined both canine and human testicles, found microplastics to be present in all tissue samples. This points to “potential consequences on male fertility,” the study, published in Toxicological Sciences, said.

Polyethylene — the type of plastic used in bags and bottles — was the most common type of plastic found, followed by PVC.

“PVC can release a lot of chemicals that interfere with spermatogenesis and it contains chemicals that cause endocrine disruption,” University of New Mexico professor Xiaozhong Yu, one of the study’s co-authors, told The Guardian.

<p>Svetlozar Hristov/Getty</p> Stock image of microplastics under a magnifying glass.

Svetlozar Hristov/Getty

Stock image of microplastics under a magnifying glass.

“At the beginning, I doubted whether microplastics could penetrate the reproductive system,” Yu told the outlet. “When I first received the results for dogs I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I received the results for humans.”

Related: Scientist Invents Next-Generation Filter That Removes 'Really Scary' Plastic Particles from Drinking Water (Exclusive)

The human testicle samples had nearly three times the amount of microplastics as the canine samples, the study found. The samples were taken in 2016 from men ranging in age from 16 to 88 — and since time has passed, Yu told the outlet “The impact on the younger generation might be more concerning” now, given the proliferation of plastic pollution.

Microplastics have ben called a “significant” potential cause of male infertility, a study published by the National Library of Medicine says.

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of plastic pollution on a beach.


Stock image of plastic pollution on a beach.

And another National Library of Medicine study pointed to microplastics’ impact on rodent fertility, saying “they have caused widespread male reproductive abnormalities in mice making them a potential hazard.”

These plastics are so small, they're ingested — or even inhaled.  Humans are breathing in the equivalent of a credit card-sized amount of microplastics per week, according to a June 2023 study that was reported in U.S. News and World Report.

As the National Library of Medicine explains, “Microplastics (MPs) are plastic particles with a diameter less than 5 mm, while nanoplastics (NPs) range in diameter from 1 to 100 or 1000 nm [nanometer].”

To put that size in perspective, there are 10 million nanometers in a centimeter.

Related: Microplastics Discovered in Human Heart Tissue for the First Time

This study comes on the heels of recent reports that microplastics were found in mice brains after only four weeks of exposure, emphasizing the pervasiveness of the pollutants.

Recent research found plastic from bottles and bags in every human placenta studied. Another alarming study found that the average bottle of water contains a quarter of a million pieces of plastic.

“There are so many unknowns,” says Bernardo Lemos, an adjunct professor of environmental epigenetics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “but we are seeing more data that suggest microplastics affect human biology.”

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