Human exposure to EDCs and fertility: case-control study in male subfertility patients

Are endocrine disrupting chemicals responsible for downward trends in male fertility?

image of man-and-chemicals in the air
This study shows that concentrations of EDCs in the male body are associated with an increased risk of subfertility, as well as changes to hormone levels, supporting the hypothesis that EDCs are contributing to declining male fertility in the developed world. The authors say their results highlight the importance of reducing the levels of these chemicals in the environment.. when to worry.

Study Abstract

A growing body of evidence suggests that endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) are contributing to declines in fertility.

Dioxins, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, brominated flame retardants, bisphenol A, triclosan, perfluorinated compounds and phthalates are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The aim of our study was to investigate whether higher exposure to EDCs is associated with increased subfertility in men.

We measured biomarkers of exposure in 163 men, recruited through four fertility clinics. According to WHO guidelines, we used a total motility count (TMC) of 20 million as cut-off value. We assigned patients to the case group when two semen samples – collected at least one week apart – had a TMC < 20 and to the control group when both samples had a TMC ≥ 20. To estimate the risk of subfertility and alteration in sex hormone concentrations we used multivariable-adjusted analysis, using logistic and linear regressions, respectively.

For an IQR increase in serum oxychlordane, the odds ratio for subfertility was 1.98 (95% CI: 1.07; 3.69). Furthermore, men with serum levels of BDE209 above the quantification limit had an odds of 7.22 (1.03; 50.6) for subfertility compared with those having values below the LOQ. Urinary levels of phthalates and triclosan were negatively associated with inhibin B and positively with LH. Urinary bisphenol A correlated negatively with testosterone levels.

Our study in men showed that internal body concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals are associated with an increased risk of subfertility together with alterations in hormone levels. The results emphasize the importance to reduce chemicals in the environment in order to safeguard male fertility.

More Information
  • Human exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and fertility: A case-control study in male subfertility patients, NCBI PMID: 26292060, 2015 Nov.
  • Are endocrine disrupting chemicals responsible for downward trends in male fertility?, ec.europa, 7 January 2016.

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