The researchers say the association might explain the increased infertility rates in polluted areas.
The study, conducted in China, according to the researchers, tracked more than 10,000 couples.
It found that those who experienced higher levels of particulate pollution were one-fifth more likely to fail to become pregnant within a year of beginning to try.
The study, led by Qin Li of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing, China, was published in the Environment International journal.
The researchers collected reproductive information, socio-demographic characteristics, and lifestyle data of 10,211 couples at risk of pregnancy from a large-scale community-based fertility survey in China.
Then, they estimated each participant’s one-year, three-year, and five-year average particulate matter exposure levels, based on remote sensing information.
The researchers also estimated the fecundability odds ratio and the odds ratio of infertility.
Among the 10,211 couples, 6,875 (67 per cent) had conceived spontaneously, with a median time to pregnancy (TTP) of five months.
“PM2.5 exposure was associated with reduced human fecundity, presented by a longer TTP and higher odds of infertility, which might explain the increased infertility rates in areas with heavy PM2.5 pollution,” the researchers said.
They further said, “In conclusion, our study provides novel evidence that exposure to PM2.5 is associated with a longer TTP and increased odds of infertility. Further studies are required to evaluate potential mechanisms and confirm the association between air pollution and fecundity decrements, which might be responsible for increased infertility rates in areas with heavy PM2.5 pollution.”
In the prediction model, the researchers also found that a woman’s particulate matter exposure level was associated with the likelihood of achieving a pregnancy within certain months of trying.Commenting on the study, President, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, Prof. Oluwarotimi Akinola, said the principle of fertility is that the female egg and male sperm should be in the right environment.
“The principle of fertility is that there should be a correct environment for the female egg to be produced or the male sperm to be available.