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Could Microplastics in Penises Impact Fertility and Sperm Count?

As evidence mounts of microplastics infiltrating diverse biological systems such as blood and lungs, researchers are investigating their potential impact on reproductive health.

Previous studies have explored the presence of microplastics in male reproductive organs. For instance, research revealed 12 different types of microplastics in the testicles of dogs and humans, linking higher levels to reduced sperm counts and testicular weight in dogs.

New findings published in IJIR: Your Sexual Medicine show that four out of five penis tissue samples from five men contained seven types of microplastics. These polymer fragments range from less than 0.2 inches to nanoplastics, which are measured in billionths of a meter.

The study, conducted at the University of Miami during penile implant surgeries for men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED), used chemical imaging to identify microplastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP) in penile tissue.

Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, the study’s lead author, emphasized that microplastics can enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact, accumulating in various tissues, including penile tissue.

Tracey Woodruff, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco, commented on the findings, noting that while novel for penile tissue, the presence of microplastics in various body parts, including testicles, is increasingly documented.

To mitigate potential reproductive health impacts, Dr. Ramasamy underscored the importance of ongoing research and strategies to reduce exposure, such as minimizing single-use plastics and opting for fresh foods over plastic-packaged items.

Dr. Woodruff echoed this, recommending practices to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals associated with plastics, which may also lessen microplastic exposure.

Continued research and proactive measures are crucial to understanding and addressing the implications of microplastic exposure on reproductive health.

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