The presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in human testicles could be related to male infertility, according to a study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences. According to researchers, these microscopic pieces of plastic can not only be found in the bloodstream, placenta or breast milk of humans, with consequences on health whose extent is still unknown, but their presence in the male reproductive system could be related to the decreased number of sperm in people with penises.

The objective of this study was to “quantify and characterize the prevalence and composition of microplastics in canine and human testes and investigate possible associations with sperm count and weight of the testes and epididymis (an organ located above each testicle where the sperm are stored and finish maturing). After analyzing 23 human testicles and 47 canine testicles, the researchers found the presence of 12 different types of microplastics.

To find these microplastics in the testicles of dogs and humans, the researchers used a process called pyrolysis with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) that allowed them to separate the tissues from these small plastic particles using high-quality equipment. sensitivity. The results have been alarming for researchers: microplastics have been found in all the organs used for the study, both human and canine. Additionally, higher average levels have been observed in human testes.

These results reveal the widespread presence of microplastics in male testicles, both canine and human, with possible consequences for male fertility, according to the researchers. The authors of this study say that the results surprised them: “At first, I doubted that microplastics could penetrate the reproductive system,” acknowledged Xiaozhong Yu, co-author of the study, in a recent interview with the British media The Guardian. Yu added that when he received the results from the canine testicles, he was surprised, but that the surprise was even greater when he received the results from the humans.

Yu, who is also a professor at the University of New Mexico, expressed his concern for the next generations to The Guardian: “The impact on younger generations could be more worrying.” The expert was concerned about the future due to the increase in the presence of plastic in the environment and the consequences it can have on the sexual health and fertility of people and animals.

In the conclusions of this research, the scientists highlight one of the most relevant results: “Both humans and dogs exhibit relatively similar proportions of the main types of polymers, with PE being the dominant one,” followed by polyethylene chloride (PVC). . Polyethylene (PE) is one of the most common plastics due to its low price and the simplicity of its manufacture (hundreds of tons of PE are generated each year). Xiaozhong Yu stated that “PVC can release a large amount of chemicals that interfere with spermatogenesis [the process by which sperm are produced] and contains substances that cause endocrine disruption.”

Experts say these new findings support the emerging theory that microplastics have a direct effect on lowering sperm numbers, but acknowledge that more research is still required in this area to establish a definitive causal connection.

The negative impact of microplastics on our health is increasingly resonating among the scientific community. These small plastic particles are the consequence of pollution derived from dumping plastic waste into the ocean for decades. The erosion of these materials over the years has caused them to fragment to microscopic sizes. Now, being so small, it is easy for them to get into almost every place: food, water and even human testicles.

Other research shows that there are clear indications that microplastics that enter the human body can increase the risk of myocardial infarctions and cardiovascular problems, among other complications. These materials can accumulate inside the arteries and, if they do, they carry a greater risk of stroke and heart attack. However, the authors of this study emphasize that there remains limited data on the general health consequences of microplastics. There is still much to know about the impact of these endocrine disruptors on our health; a path still to be scrutinized by the scientific community.