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Decreased total sperm counts in habitants of highly polluted areas of Eastern Sicily, Italy

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Air pollution has been suggested to affect semen quality, but the evidence is still contradictory. To assess whether any differences occur in conventional sperm parameters of men life-long resident in low, middle-low, middle, and high industrial density zones in the province of Messina. We retrospectively analyzed the conventional sperm parameters of patients to whom the sperm analysis was requested during their female partner counseling for infertility in an assisted reproductive technique (ART) center. A total of 184 men were enrolled. Total sperm count was higher in patients living in low and middle-low industrial density areas compared with that of men living in middle and high ones (123.5 ± 146.8 vs. 80.7 ± 92.7 mil/ejaculate, p < 0.05). No difference was found for sperm concentration (37.2 ± 49.7 vs. 30.5 ± 37.2 mil/mL), progressive motility (15.4 ± 19.8% vs. 14.2 ± 18.4%), total motility (62.3 ± 20.5 vs. 58.4 ± 19.9 mil/mL), and normal forms (2.7 ± 1.5 vs. 2.3 ± 3.0 mil/mL). These results add further evidence to findings from Sicilian population. Effective control of air pollution should be accomplished to prevent its negative impact on human reproductive health.

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Regional Agency for Environmental Protection


Assisted reproductive technique



CH4 :



Carbon monoxide


Nonmethanic hydrocarbons

NO2 :

Nitric dioxide

NOx :

Nitric oxides

O3 :



Particulate matter


Reactive oxygen species

SO2 :

Sulfur dioxide


Volatile organic compounds


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Correspondence to Rossella Cannarella.

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Cannarella, R., Liuzzo, C., Mongioì, L.M. et al. Decreased total sperm counts in habitants of highly polluted areas of Eastern Sicily, Italy. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 31368–31373 (2019).

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