The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Air plays foul in pregnancy

The toxicity of Calcutta’s air alters the genetic code of sperm to such an extent that even if conception occurs chances of an early miscarriage are high, warn doctors.

A study of 100 childless couples who have experienced early miscarriage in the past two years revealed genetic deficiencies in sperms produced by almost 55 per cent of the males in the group. The common factor was constant exposure to air pollution.

“Around 15 to 20 per cent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and not all of these are because the women have a problem. Male partners who are exposed to pollution produce defective sperm that might fertilise the ovum but cannot guarantee a healthy foetus,” said Jaya Bhattacharya, the chief of the city-based IVF & Infertility Research Centre that conducted the study.

Metro had reported on Monday about the findings of an Indo-American study that established a link between foul air and male infertility.

“The incidence of early miscarriage has increased at least five fold in the last couple of decades,” said infertility expert Baidyanath Chakraborty, the director of the Institute of Reproductive Medicine. “The functional quality of sperms is often found to be damaged.”

In some cases, the diagnosis is azospermia, or no sperm. Till recently, Budge Budge resident Naba Haldar (name changed) had no idea that his medical problem, not his wife’s, was the reason for them being childless for 15 years. Tests in an infertility clinic revealed that his sperm comprised damaged “genetic material” that could never fertilise an ovum.

Three questions helped doctors nail the cause.

What is the pollution level in your neighbourhood? “High.”

How many hours do you spend outdoors? “Eight to 10.”

What is your dependence on buses and autos? “High.”

Arnab Deb, an andrologist attached to the Genomee Fertility Clinic at Bhagirathi Neotia Woman and Child Care Centre, said low sperm count and motility (ability of sperm to move towards an ovum) was now common among a large percentage of males in town.

The foul fumes emitted by polluting vehicles, many powered by katatel, are the primary cause, say experts.

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