Significant Microplastic Concentrations Found in Human Testicles Raise Health Concerns

As reported by The Conversation, Scientists have discovered “significant concentrations” of microplastics in human testicular tissue, sparking concerns about their potential effects on reproductive health.

Microplastics, defined as plastic particles less than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) in length, have been detected in our food, water, air, and even in human placentas.

These particles are alarming because they contain various chemicals that can disrupt the body’s hormone regulation, potentially leading to reproductive disorders and certain cancers. Additionally, microplastics can carry toxins like heavy metals on their surfaces. From Newsweek

Previous estimates suggest that the average person ingests about a credit card’s worth of microplastics each week, making their presence in our bodies unsurprising.

In a new study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, researchers from the University of New Mexico examined anonymized postmortem tissue from 23 human testes provided by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, along with 46 canine tissue samples from Albuquerque animal shelters and private veterinary clinics.

Microplastics were found in 100% of the samples tested, with an average concentration of 329.44 micrograms per gram in human tissue and 122.63 micrograms per gram in dog tissue. According to BBC

“Initially, I doubted whether microplastics could penetrate the reproductive system at all,” said Xiaozhong “John” Yu, a professor at the University of New Mexico’s College of Nursing and lead author of the study. “When I first received the results for dogs, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I received the results for humans.”

Further tests on the canine samples showed that higher levels of certain types of plastic, particularly PVC, in the testicular tissue, were associated with lower sperm counts.

“The type of plastic makes a difference,” Yu explained. “PVC can release many chemicals that interfere with sperm production and cause endocrine disruption.”

Over the past 50 years, sperm counts in the U.S. have declined by 50%, a trend researchers believe may be partly influenced by the presence of microplastics.

“These findings highlight the pervasive presence of microplastics in the male reproductive system in both canine and human testes, with potential consequences on male fertility,” the study authors wrote.

However, more research is needed to understand fully how these plastics might affect sperm production in humans. “We have a lot of unknowns,” Yu said. “We need to really look at the potential long-term effects.”

Yu added, “We don’t want to scare people. We want to scientifically provide the data and make people aware that there are a lot of microplastics. We can make our own choices to better avoid exposures, change our lifestyle, and change our behavior.”