Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 19, pp 19425–19433 | Cite as

Blood and seminal plasma mercury levels and predatory fish intake in relation to low semen quality

  • Chin-En Ai
  • Ching-Jen Li
  • Ming-Chien Tsou
  • Jun-Lin Chen
  • Hsing-Cheng HsiEmail author
  • Ling-Chu ChienEmail author
Research Article


Declining human sperm quality has been demonstrated in several recent studies. Age, environmental factors, and nutritional factors can affect semen quality. Mercury (Hg) is considered a male reproductive toxicant. Animal studies indicated that exposure to Hg can cause DNA damage, sperm dysfunction, and decreased sperm motility. Some previous studies also revealed that blood Hg levels in infertile or subfertile males were higher than those in normal males. In this study, we recruited 84 male participants from a reproductive medical center and investigated the Hg, lead, and selenium levels in blood and seminal plasma. Participants were divided into two groups, low- and high-quality semen groups, according to the World Health Organization reference values for human semen characteristics. The distribution of blood reproductive hormones and information on participants’ lifestyle and medical history were collected from structured questionnaires. Average Hg levels in blood were 9.3±5.9 versus 8.9±5.9 and in seminal plasma were 1.26±0.61 versus 1.05±0.52 μg/L in the low- and high-quality semen groups, respectively. There was a dose-dependent relationship between blood Hg levels and normal sperm morphology (p=0.02). Participants with predatory fish intake and high blood Hg level had lower sperm with a normal morphology. Therefore, predatory fish intake may be a critical risk factor for elevated Hg levels in males and cause low semen quality.


Mercury Semen quality Sperm morphology Predatory fish 



We thank all the study participants. We also thank all present and past members of the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Sciences at Taipei Medical University Hospital for their assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

This study was conducted in accordance with guidelines of the Taipei Medical University-Joint Institutional Review Board (approval no. 201110001). All participants provided written informed consent at enrollment.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public HealthTaipei Medical UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Graduate Institute of Environmental EngineeringNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  3. 3.Nutrition Research CenterTaipei Medical University HospitalTaipeiTaiwan

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