Opinion: Air pollution will make Delhi the infertility capital of the world

Written By: Dr Vineet Malhotra
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Feb 12, 2018, 11:56 AM(IST)

Representative image Photograph:( ANI )

Air pollution in India is killing approximately 1.5 million people every year and is the fifth largest killer in India. According to the WHO, India also has the world's highest death rate from chest diseases and chronic diseases of the respiratory tract. An estimated 50% of children are permanently affected by the air pollution and have severe lung damage as a result.


There has been a steady worsening in the status of air pollution in the city and it reached critical levels in November 2017, which has also been referred to as the Great Smog of Delhi. Levels of PM2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter hit 999 micrograms per cubic meter, while the safe limits for those pollutants are 60 and 100 respectively. It is said that breathing the air in Delhi during that period was the equivalent of smoking 50 cigarettes a day.


And if that wasn’t enough, there is more bad news. Air pollution has a direct inverse relationship with the fertility potential of a couple.

Fertility potential has been declining worldwide and a variety of factors have been attributed to this, including urbanisation, higher maternal and paternal age at conception, stress etc. Air pollution also has a severe negative impact on both maternal and paternal factors for reproduction.


It is known to reduce sperm formation, affecting the quality of sperm and damage its DNA. This, in turn, reduces the conception rates and increases the risk of miscarriages.


It also affects the quality of egg formation in women and reduces their ability to produce new eggs, a symptom known as the reduction in ovarian reserve.


Data is available for varying degrees of impact where air pollution is categorised under low, medium and severe. Severe degrees of air pollution can have an acute impact on health parameters, including fertility, prematurity and infant mortality.


Considering the fact that air pollution levels in Delhi peaked at very critical levels during the great smog and again on the New Year's day, it is safe to say that we are not only increasing our risk of respiratory diseases, cancer and death. We are also moving towards making New Delhi, the male infertility capital of the world. 


We have witnessed a spurt in the incidence of couples requiring assisted reproductive methods to achieve fertility. The level of air pollution in the city will make it compulsory for most couples to resort to artificial methods for reproduction, as they would have become subfertile. We are creating a population of children who will be born by assisted reproduction and will be further condemned to breathe the foul air, which will make them permanently asthmatic. 


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)  


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