Menu Menu

New study says there are microplastics in your balls

A growing number of studies are finding microplastics inside the testicles of humans and dogs. Scientists anticipate this has repercussions for fertility and reproduction.

Plastics are now permanently ingrained in modern life. They’re used in almost every industry, and now, tiny invisible plastic particles are making a home inside our bodies.

Microplastics have been found in the human bloodstream, brain, and lungs. They’ve even been found in placentas, but there is simply no way to avoid them. Acts of keeping ourselves alive, including drinking, eating, and breathing, are all ways we consume microplastics unknowingly.

Food containers shed microplastics onto our food and microplastics shed from our clothing and single-use beverage bottles we purchase regularly. Car tyres, for example, shed microplastics that fly in the air we breathe as we stroll down the street.

Now, they’ve been found in men’s reproductive organs.

Building off a small study completed in China last year which discovered microplastics in human testicles and semen, a new study published this month in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences has found that microplastics are building up in the testicles of humans and dogs.

It questions the health implications of these particles in the reproductive system of animals, including humans.


Looking at the research

The study examined the testicles of two dozen men, obtained from postmortems back in 2016. The men’s ages at the time of death were between 16 to 88. It also looked at the testes of 47 dogs that had been recently neutered.

The choice to investigate the presence of microplastics in the reproductive organs of dogs was based on these animals sharing a close-knit and similar environment to humans.

Right away, the research team discovered a vast range of microplastic types in both human and animal samples.

Polyethylene, also known as PE, was the most dominant plastic present. This is unsurprising, as this is the most commonly used plastic globally, making up product packaging, single-use bags, and a number of other household products.


Rather than manually counting the number of microplastic particles present, researchers dissolved the biological tissue of the testicles and separated the solids. In an astonishing finding, what was left was 75 percent plastic – an extremely high concentration.

Examining them up close, researchers noted that the microplastics’ shape was ‘shard-like’ and ‘stabby’ due to being broken up over time and ingested. They expressed worry over this, as tiny particles can impact the functionality of biological cells.

One of the researchers, John Yu, was surprised to find out that the male reproductive system had been impacted at all, considering the blood-tissue barrier around these organs is especially tight.

Yu also pointed out that microplastic exposure may be even worse for younger generations now that there is ‘more plastic than ever in the environment.’  He suspects similar findings would be revealed if female reproductive organs were investigated.


What does this mean for fertility and reproduction?

A study from the University of Mexico found that microplastic concentrations in human testicles was three times higher than those found in dogs.

Scientists suspect that microplastics are finding their way into the reproductive system through the gut, latching onto fat particles that are metabolised and later released throughout the body.

This is happening without our knowledge, and the consequences of this process are still difficult to understand.

Chemicals used to create plastic indeed have the potential to disrupt cells and tissues in major organs, while also leaking endocrine-disrupting chemicals that could impact the human reproductive system by declining sperm count and reducing fertility in women.

However, scientists are quick to remind us that these studies remain in their early stages and require more research in order to draw any concrete conclusions.

What can be gathered from these revelations is that more action is needed to reduce and eventually eliminate plastic production from society. Plastic may be convenient for a moment, but once thrown away, it becomes a forever problem.