Perhaps now China will take effective action against pollution: sperm counts are down

sperm-quality-in-chinaIn China, the government has stepped up its efforts to restrain pollution, which environmental advocates such as Greenpeace East Asia said did not go far enough. The need for effective action is painfully evident.

Weeks ago, the city of Harbin was virtually closed by pollution and days ago, an eight-year-old girl was revealed to be the country’s youngest victim of lung cancer which a doctor who treated her attributed to pollution. The girl lives next to a major road. Deaths from lung cancer in China have increased fourfold in the last 30 years. Now, there is what the Daily Torygraph termed a “sperm crisis”: sperm quality in China is down. Semen is known in Chinese as jing zi (精子).

A bad environment makes for bad sperm quality in China

It has been suspected for years by the Chinese medical community that pollution might have decreased men’s fertility. Now, the situation is plain. The Shanghai Morning Post was the first to report that a mere third of the jizz held at the sperm bank at Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai met World Health Organisation standards.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that 12.5 percent of China’s child-bearing population – 40 million people – is now infertile. Two decades ago, it was only three percent. Dr Li Zheng, the director of the sperm bank and a sperm expert at Renji Hospital’s urology department, warned that sperm quality in China must improve: “If we don’t protect the environment now, mankind will face a worsening infertility predicament.”

“Ugly” sperm

Male infertility worsens by the year in China. A study overseen by Dr Li in 2012 found that in the past 10 years, deteriorating environmental conditions have been mirrored closely by a fall in sperm quality in China. He explained that a poor environment results in “ugly” sperm – they stop swimming. As such, the quality of sperm is a good indicator of environmental conditions.

The future

In September, three respected academic institutions, of which one was the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, announced that they would begin a five-year study of the connection between pollution and female infertility in 2014.

An even more pressing reason to reduce pollution

If it were not enough that sperm quality in China endangers the continuation of family lines, the country’s government faces a more immediate threat: it has also been reported that smog is obscuring the view of surveillance cameras, which are to be found on every major street of every major city. Some have speculated that criminals could take advantage of this.

More sperm news

Another interesting piece of sperm news from China arose in March of this year and echoed the film, There’s Something about Mary. 22-year-old Gou Wen had wished to declare his love for Zeng Lin, 19. “I love her so much but she didn’t know it and I didn’t know how to tell her,” said Wen. So he presented her with a vial of his sperm, thinking it “the ultimate way to show love.”

Lin, however, mistook the sperm for moisturiser, and rubbed half of it into her face before becoming suspicious of the smell. Wen was obliged to pay her damages of USD300/GBP187/EUR223 and lamented, “Now I know I was wrong, but I will find another way to show it.”

Perhaps she should have been grateful

It could be argued that Wen should have responded with gratitude rather than horror. Her suitor actually gave her a great gift. In China, sperm is associated with vitality, and there’s a major cultural taboo against giving it away. One donor, Wang Jian, a graduate student in Beijing, revealed to the China Daily that he didn’t tell his family of his donations, fearing they might “kill me for letting a stranger use the precious family seed.” Sperm banks offer payments of as much as 4,000 yuan (USD651/GBP405/EUR483), more than the average monthly salary, for ten donations. Sperm facials were actually recommended in I’m Wild Again, the memoir of one-time Cosmo editor, Helen Gurley Brown.

About the Author Timothy Chilman

Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”

Leave a Comment: