12.01.2022 All News

Prolonged exposure to polluted air in the Western Balkans can reduce women's fertility by more than 10 per cent; the chances of conceiving are reduced during high-pollution days, while the possibility of miscarriage increases.

This month, in the second phase of the campaign focuses we will be informing the citizens about the decline in fertility and the increasingly high sterility rates among women and men across the Western Balkans, caused by air pollution. The countries in the region are recording a steady population decline to begin with.

Scientific research has confirmed that the frequency of miscarriages and stillbirths is significantly higher during a period of exposure to polluted air, according to a number of studies. These studies also show that women living in contaminated areas have fewer vital eggs, lower fertility rates and higher rates of embryo implantation failure during in vitro fertilization compared to those who are not exposed to air pollution. PM 2.5 reduces fertility in women, and polluted cities across the region emit an average of twice the annual permitted values, which can reduce fertility by up to 10 percent.

In men, particulate matter pollution reaches the testicles, causing a decrease in sperm production, less sperm motility and more frequent miscarriages due to programmed cell death. Sulphate compounds that are formed in the process of coal combustion increase the risk of miscarriage by up to 13 percent. Infertility is also caused by plastic pollution. Polystyrene, a type of plastic that in its micro and nano state can be found in food, water and air, affects the early development of the embryo and can later cause abnormal development and premature birth.

Air pollution by particulate matter, heavy metals, micro and nano plastics, and other substances leads to an increased miscarriage rate even in cases of in vitro fertilization, as it reduces the success rates in laboratories where this process is carried out.

We reiterate the call for an urgent solution to the chronic problem of air pollution for the countries of the Western Balkans:

 * Abandoning the use of coal for electricity production is the most important measure to improve air quality, and replacing household boilers with cleaner solutions can play an important role, too.

 * Mitigation of the harmful effects of air pollution by reducing the use of disposable plastics, as well as replacing synthetic fibers with natural ones.

* Competent institutions should work on policies to promote healthy pregnancy, so as to improve the knowledge of women and men on this process, and help future mothers to better protect themselves and the fetus.

 * It is necessary to provide highly efficient indoor air filters, especially for special institutions that deal with infertility treatment.

* It is also necessary to improve the capacities of diagnostic centers as well as to conduct joint studies that will use data of monitoring and measuring the consequences of air pollution on infertility, premature births, onset of disease and infant mortality in the Western Balkans.

An expert analysis of air pollution’s harmful effects on fertility in women and men in the region was made for the "Balkans United for Clean Air" campaign by Miodrag Stojković, a prominent human genetics professor and founder of the special hospital for treatment of infertility in Leskovac. He warned that without actions by legislators and competent authorities there can be no success in preventing pollution-related diseases – including infertility. However, there has been no progress in that area last year, and cities in the region remain at the top of international most polluted cities’ lists.

The "Balkans United for Clean Air" campaign calls on the citizens from the Western Balkans to join the common struggle towards improving air quality, reducing infertility and improving children's health.

The “Balkans United for Clean Air” campaign was initiated by the European Fund for the Balkans in partnership with the following organizations: Eco Forum from Zenica, Environmental Territorial Management Institute from Tirana, Sbunker and Balkan Green Foundation from Pristina, Air Care from Skopje, OZON from Podgorica, Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute and Belgrade Open School from Belgrade. It takes place for the second year in a row, with the aim of raising the awareness of the region’s citizens about the causes and consequences of pollution, possible ways to improve air quality and the struggle for a healthier environment. "Balkans United for Clean Air" emphasizes the necessary of regional cooperation for the transformation of the energy industry and the environmental protection system, which would improve both the economy and public health.