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Demographic Dysphoria Looms As Scientists Discover Sulfur Dioxide Lowers Sperm Count

Back in June, we explained how a demographic dysphoria looms for Central Bankers as doctors discovered sperm counts in western men have plummeted nearly 60% over the last four decades.

In an era of depopulation, Econimica’s Chris Hamiliton noted, the next business cycle recession will be unending and is very likely to run years into decades and perhaps a century or more.

We also expanded on the idea of a declining population already indebted with record debt levels and zero interest rates is a perfect cocktail for disaster.

The global problem identified in one chart provided to us via Cris Hamiliton shows the annual growth of the 0-64yr/old population of the combined OECD nations (most the EU, US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, S. Korea, Australia / New Zealand) plus China, Brazil, and Russia.

To sum up the chart, all the population growth responsible for economic expansion in the past half century is coming to an end in 2018.

So, there has to be an explanation why developed and emerging market males are experiencing lower sperm counts...

With that in mind, we think-we found- the answer in China, as a new report links sulfur dioxide to lower sperm count.

According to Yuewei Liu, an environmental epidemiologist at Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control & Prevention, suggests that poor semen quality accounts for 90% of male infertility. Impaired semen clearly interferes with conception, but it is also often an indicator of other health problems. 

Chemical & Engineering News outlines how Liu’s clinical test demonstrates sulfur dioxide exposure to sperm development could impact sperm quality:

So Liu and his team decided to study semen samples collected from 1,759 men in Wuhan, China. They had all visited Tongji Hospital from 2013 to 2015 seeking help to conceive a child with their partners. The researchers measured sperm concentration, total sperm, and total motile sperm in each sample, controlling for factors that might affect semen quality such as age and smoking. Then the scientists drew on government data from nine air quality monitoring stations in Wuhan—a transportation hub and manufacturing powerhouse—to estimate exposure to air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone. Liu employed a model that analyzed the location of the monitoring stations in relationship to each man’s home to predict individual daily pollutant exposures. Because human sperm develops over 90 days, the researchers calculated pollution exposures for the 90 days prior to semen collection so they could look at key periods of sperm development.


When Liu and the team used a statistical test to rate semen quality against increasing air pollution, they found no impact from NO2, CO or O3. However, for each 10 µg/m3 increase in SO2exposure during the first stage of sperm development, sperm concentration dropped by 6.5%, total sperm count by 11.3%, and total motile sperm by 13.2%, Liu says. Levels of SO2 during the later stages of sperm development did not appear to impact sperm quality. The annual mean SO2 concentrations in Wuhan during the study period ranged from a high of 33 µg/m3 in 2013 to 18 µg/m3 in 2015. In the U.S., annual mean SO2 concentration was less than 5 µg/m3 in 2013.


“Our results indicate for the first time that SO2 exposure may lower semen quality by affecting the earliest stage of sperm development, 70 to 90 days before ejaculation,” Liu says. He speculates that SO2 could impair sperm by triggering oxidative stress and damage to DNA. “Given the limited evidence from epidemiological and in vivo studies, further studies are needed to confirm the association of NO2, CO and O3 with semen quality,” Liu adds. He recommends caution in generalizing the findings to other populations since the men were all from one city in China.

Bénédicte Jacquemin, an epidemiologist at the health research institute ISGlobal in Barcelona, says “even though the study was limited to one city, this paper adds evidence to the existing literature showing a downward trend in sperm concentration and count with increasing exposure to air pollution”. 

Explained: Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gasses known as oxides of sulfur. It is a colorless gas with a pungent and suffocating odor. It is a common air pollutant found in many parts of the world...

Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring map provided by NASA outlines many developed and emerging economies are currently experiencing some form of sulfur dioxide release. Here on the east coast of the United States, we are swamped with power plant expulsion of SO2, so you might want to get checked out...

Bottomline: decades of economic progres in developed and emerging markets have had its advantages, but rarely do we hear of the disadvantages in a scientific way, as what we have just learned: sulfur dioxide is a sperm killer.