Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation

International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health

Increased IMPACT FACTOR 2012: 1.305

Open Access
VolumeIssuePage

Open Access

Environmental factors and semen quality

Joanna Jurewicz1 / Wojciech Hanke1, / Michał Radwan1 / Jens Bonde1

Department of Environmental Epidemiology, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Łódź, Poland1

Department of Informatics and Medical Statistics, Medical University of Lodz, Łódź, Poland2

Department of Operative and Endoscopic Gynecology, Polish Mother's Memorial Hospital — Research Institute, Łódź, Poland3

Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg Universty Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark4

This content is open access.

Citation Information: International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health. Volume 22, Issue 4, Pages 305–329, ISSN (Online) 1896-494X, ISSN (Print) 1232-1087, DOI: 10.2478/v10001-009-0036-1, January 2010

Publication History

Published Online:
2010-01-06

Environmental factors and semen quality

Objectives: An increasing number of reports suggest that chemical and physical agents in the environment, introduced and spread by human activity, may affect male fertility in humans. This article aims at evaluating the impact of environmental exposures (pesticides, phthalates, PCBs, air pollution, trihalomethanes (THMs), mobile phones) on semen quality, by reviewing most recent published literature. Materials and Methods: Epidemiological studies focusing on exposure to environmental factors and semen quality for the last ten years were identified by a search of the Pubmed, Medline, Ebsco, Agricola and Toxnet literature bases. Results: The results from the presented studies suggest that there are strong and rather consistent indications that some pesticides besides DBCP (e.g. DDT/Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene [DDE], ethylenedibromide, organophosphates) affects sperm count. PCBs are detrimental to sperm motility. In case of air pollution, studies suggest a link between ambient air pollutants and various semen characteristics. Additional research is needed to corroborate this association and to establish the causal agents. Results of few studies on subfertile men demonstrate associations between phthalate levels commonly experienced by the public and impaired sperm quality (impact on sperm concentration, morphology, motility), but the findings have not been corroborated in studies of men from the general population. Mobile phones might adversely affect the quality of semen by decreasing mostly motility but also the sperm counts, viability and morphology. In spite of their consistent results, most of the studies are rather small. Association between exposure to THMs and poor semen quality was not observed. Conclusions: Epidemiological studies suggest awareness of environmental factors which may affect semen quality. In case both of well proven and disputable reproductive and developmental hazards, it is necessary to prevent parental exposure to the agents associated with those hazards.

Keywords: Environmental factors; Semen quality; Environmental exposure

  • Huyghe E, Matsuda T, Thonneau P. Increasing incidence of testicular cancer worldwide: a review.J Urol 2003;170:5-11.

  • Paulozzi LJ, Erickson JD, Jackson RJ. Hypospadias trends in two US surveillance systems.Pediatrics 1997;100(5):831-4. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Auger J, Kunstmann JM, Czyglik F, Jouannet P. Decline in Semen Quality among Fertile Men in Paris during the Past 20 Years.New Eng J 1995;332:281-5.

  • Carlsen E, Giwercman A, Keiding N, Skakkebaek NE. Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years.BMJ 1992;305:609-13.

  • Sharpe RM, Skakkebaek NE. Are oestrogens involved in falling sperm counts and disorders of male reproductive tract?Lancet 1993;341:1392-5.

  • Whorton D, Krauss RM, Marshall S, Milby TH. Infertility in male pesticide workers.Lancet 1977;2(8051):1259-61. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Bonde JP, Giwercman A. Occupational hazards to male fecundity.Reproductive Medicine Reviews 1995;4:59-73. [CrossRef]

  • Bonde JP, Giwercman A, Ernst E. Identifying environmental risk to male reproductive function by occupational sperm studies: logistics and design options.Occup Environ Med 1996;53:511-9. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Irvine D. Epidemiology and aetiology of male infertility.Hum Repro 1998;13(Suppl 1):33-44. [CrossRef]

  • Skakkebaek NE, Giwercman A, de Kretser D. Pathogenesis and management of male infertility.Lancet 1994;343:147-9.

  • Sheiner EK, Sheiner E, Hammel RD, Potashnik G, Carel R. Effects of occupational exposures on male fertility: literature review.Ind Med 2003;41:55-62.

  • Jensen TK, Bonde JP, Joffe M. The influence of occupational exposure on male reproductive function.Occup Med 2006;56:544-53. [CrossRef]

  • Selevan SG, Borkovec L, Slott VL, Zudova Z, Rubes J, Everson DP, et al. Semen quality and reproductive health of young Czech men exposed to seasonal air pollution.Environ Health Perspect 2000;108:887-94. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Rubes J, Zudova Z, Vozdova M, Hajnova R, Urbanova J, Borkovec L, et al. Air pollution and sperm quality.Cas Lek Cesk 2000;139(6):174-6. [PubMed]

  • Rubes J, Selevan SG, Evenson DP, Zudova D, Vozdova M, Zudova Z, et al. Episodic air pollution is associated with increased DNA fragmentation in human sperm without other changes in semen quality.Hum Reprod 2005:20(10): 2776-83. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Sokol R, Kraft P, Fowler IM, Mamet R, Kim E, Berhane KT. Exposure to Environmental Ozone Alters Semen Quality.Environ Health Perspect 2006;114(3):360-5. [PubMed]

  • Paradisi R, Vanella S, Barzanti R, Cani C, Battaglia C, Seracchioli R, et al. Effects of indoor air purification by an air cleaning system (Koala technology) on semen parameters in male factor infertility: results of a pilot study.Andrologia 2009;41(3):163-8. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Bonde JP. Ozone and semen quality.Environ Health Perspect 2007;115(4):A185. [CrossRef]

  • Hauser R, Altshul L, Chen Z, Ryan L, Overstreet J, Schiff I, et al. Environmental organochlorines and semen quality: results of a pilot study.Environ Health Perspect 2002;110:229-33. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Rozati R, Reddy PP, Reddanna P, Mujtaba R. Xenoestrogens and male fertility: myth or reality?Asian J Androl 2000;2(4):263-9.

  • Dallinga JW, Moonen EJ, Dumoulin JC, Evers JL, Geraedts JP, Kleinjans JC. Decreased human semen quality and organochlorine compounds in blood.Hum Reprod 2002;17:1973-9. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Spanò M, Toft G, Hagmar L, Eleuteri P, Rescia M, Rignell-Hydbom A, et al. Exposure to PCB and p, p'-DDE in European and Inuit populations: impact on human sperm chromatin integrity.Hum Reprod 2005;20(12):3488-99. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Toft G, Rignell-Hydbom A, Tyrkiel E, Shvets M, Giwercman A, Lindh Ch, et al. Semen Quality and Exposure to Persistent Organochlorine Pollutants.Epidemiol 2006;23. [CrossRef]

  • Bonde JP, Toft G, Rylander L, Rignell-Hydbom A, Giwercman A, Spano M, et al. Fertility and markers of male reproductive function in Inuit and European populations spanning large contrasts in blood levels of persistent organochlorines.Environ Health Perspect 2008;116(3):269-77. [PubMed]

  • Rignell-Hydbom A, Rylander R, Giwercman A, Jonsson BA, Lindh C, Eleuteri P, et al. Exposure to persistent organochlorine pollutants and seminal levels of markers of epididymal and accessory sex gland functions in Swedish men.Hum Reprod 2005;20(7):1910-14. [CrossRef]

  • Rignell-Hydbom A, Rylander R, Giwercman A, Jonsson BA, Lindh C, Eleuteri P, et al. Exposure to PCBs and p, p'-DDE and human sperm chromatin integrity.Environ Health Perspect 2005;113(2):175-9.

  • Richthoff J, Rylander L, Jönsson BAG, Akesson H, Hagmar L, Nilsson-Ehle P, et al. Serum levels of 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (CB-153) in relation to markers of reproductive function in young males from the general Swedish population.Environ Health Perspect 2003;111(4):409-13.

  • Graves CG, Matanoski GM, Tardiff RG. Weight of evidence for an association between adverse reproductive and developmental effects and exposure to disinfection by-products: A critical review.Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2001;34:103-24. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Linder RE, Klinefelter GR, Strader LF, Narotsky MG, Suarez JD, Roberts NL, et al. Dibromoacetic acid affects reproductive competence and sperm quality in male-rat.Fundam Appl Toxicol 1995;28(1):9-17. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Linder RE, Klinefelter GR, Strader LF, Suarez JD, Roberts NL. Spermatotoxicity of dichloroacetic acid.Reprod Toxicol 1997a;11(5):681-8. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Linder RE, Klinefelter GR, Strader LF, Veeramachaneni DNR, Roberts NL, Suarez JD. Histopathologic changes in the testes of rats exposed to dibromoacetic acid.Reprod Toxicol 1997b;11(1):47-56. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Luft JC, Garges JB, Rockett JR, Dix DJ. Male reproductive toxicity of bromochloroacetic acid in mice.Biol Reprod 2000;62(1):246-47.

  • Christian MS, York RG, Hoberman AM, Frazee J, Fisher LC, Brown WR, et al. Oral (drinking water) two-generation reproductive toxicity study of dibromoacetic acid (DBA) in rats.Int J Toxicol 2002;21(4):237-76. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Luben T, Olshan AF, Herring AH, Jeffay S, Strader L, Buus RM, et al. The healthy men study: an evaluation of exposure to disinfection by-products in tap water and sperm quality.Environ Health Persp 2007;115(8):1169-76. [CrossRef]

  • Fenster L, Waller K, Windham G, Henneman T, Anderson M, Mendola P, et al. Trihalomethane levels in home tap water and semen quality.Epidemiology 2003;14(6):650-8. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Bretveld R, Brouwers M, Ebisch I, Roeleveld N. Influence of pesticides on male fertility.Scand J Work Environ Health 2007;33(1):13-28. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Ratcliffe JM, Schrader SM, Steenland K, Clapp DE, Turner T, Hornung RW. Semen quality in papaya workers with long term exposure to ethylene dibromide.Br J Ind Med 1987;44:317-26. [PubMed]

  • Recio R, Robbins WA, Ocampo-Gómez G, Borja-Aburto V, Morán-Martinez J, Froines JR, et. al. Organophosphorous pesticide exposure increases the frequency of sperm sex null aneuploidy.Environ Health Persp 2001;109(12):1237-40. [CrossRef]

  • Padungtod C, Hassold TJ, Millie E, Ryan LM, Savitz DA, Christiani DC, et al. Sperm aneuploidy among Chinese pesticide workers: scoring by the FISH method.An abstract. Am J Ind Med 1999;36(2):230-8. [CrossRef]

  • Swan S, Kruse R, Liu F, Barr DB, Drobnis E, Redmon J, Wang C, Brazil C, Overstreet J. Semen quality in relation to biomarkers of pesticide exposure.Environ Health Perspect 2003;111(12):1478-84. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Lifeng T, Wang S, Ji J, Sun X, Li Y, Wang Q, Chen L. Effects of fenvalerate exposure on semen quality among occupational workers.Contraception 2006;73:92-6. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Meeker JD, Ryan L, Barr DB, Herrick RF, Bennett DH, Bravo R, et al. The relationship of urinary metabolites of carbaryl/naphthalene and chlorpyrifos with human semen quality.Environ Health Persp 2004;112(14):1665-70. [CrossRef]

  • Abell A, Ernst E, Bonde JPE. Semen quality and sexual hormones in greenhouse workers.Scand J Work Environ Health 2000;26(6):492-500. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Larsen SB, Giwercman A, Span M, Bonde JPE. Seminal characteristics following exposure to pesticides among agricultural workers.Scand J Work Environ Health 1999;25 Suppl 1:74-5. [PubMed]

  • Oliva A, Spira A, Multigner L. Contribution of environmental factors to risk of male infertility.Hum Reprod 2001;16(8):1768-76. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Kamijima M, Hibi H, Gotoh M, Taki K, Saito I, Wang H, et al. A Survey of Semen Indices in Insecticide Sprayers.J Occup Heath 2004;46(2):109-18. [CrossRef]

  • Recio-Vega R, Ocampo-Gómez G, Borja-Aburto VH, Moran-Martínez J, Cebrian-Garcia ME. Organophosphorus pesticide exposure decreases sperm quality: association between sperm parameters and urinary pesticide levels.J Appl Toxicol 2008;28(5):674-80. [CrossRef]

  • Yucra S, Gasco M, Rubio J, Gonzales GF. Semen quality in Peruvian pesticide applicators: association between urinary organophosphate metabolites and semen parameters.Environ Health 2008;7(59):1-10.

  • Rastogi SK. Phthalate exposure and health outcomes.Indian J Occup Environ Med 2006;10:111-5. [CrossRef]

  • Wittassek M, Wiesmüller GA, Koch HM, Eckard R, Dobler L, Müller J, et al. Internal phthalate exposure over the last two decades — a retrospective human biomonitoring study.Int J Hyg Environ Health 2007;210(3-4):319-33. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Ge RS, Chen GR, Tanrikut C, Hardy MP. Phthalate ester toxicity in Leydig cells: developmental timing and dosage considerations.Reprod Toxicol 2007;23(3):366-73. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Borch J, Axelstad M, Vinggaard AM, Dalgaard M. Diisobutyl phthalate has comparable anti-androgenic effects to di-n-butyl phthalate in fetal rat testis.Toxicol Lett 2006;163(3):183-90. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

  • Duty SM, Silva MJ, Barr DB, Brock JW, Ryan L, Chen Z, et al. Phthalate Exposure and Human Semen Parameters.Epidemiol 2003;14:269-77 [CrossRef]

  • Duty SM, Calafat AM, Silva MJ, Ryan L, Hauser R. Phthalate exposure and reproductive hormones in adult men.Hum Reprod 2005;20(3):604-10. DOI:10.1093/humrep/deh656. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

  • Hauser R, Meeker JD, Duty S, Silva MJ, Calafat AM. Altered Semen Quality in Relation to Urinary Concentrations of Phthalate Monoester and Oxidative Metabolites.Epidemiol 2006;17:682-91. [CrossRef]

  • Jönsson BAG, Richthoff J, Rylander L, Giwercman A, Lars H. Urinary phthalate metabolites and biomarkers of reproductive function in young men.Epidemiol 2005;6(4):487-93. [CrossRef]

  • Wirth JJ, Rossano MG, Potter R, Puscheck E, Daly DC, Paneth N, et al. A pilot study associating urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites and semen quality.Sys Biol Reprod Med 2008;54(3):143-54. [CrossRef]

  • Pant N, Shukla M, Patel KD, Shukla Y, Mathur N, Gupta YK, et al. Correlation of phthalate exposures with semen quality.Toxicol Appl Pharmacology 2008;231:112-6. [CrossRef]

  • Zhang Y, Zheng L, Chen B. Phthalate exposure and human semen quality in Changhai: a cross-sectional study. Biomed Environ Sci 2006;19(3):205-9.

  • Davoudi M, Brossner C, Kuber W. The influence of electromagnetic waves on sperm motility.Urol Urogynaecol 2002;19:18-22.

  • Kilgallon JS, Simmons LW. Image content influences men's semen quality.Biol Lett 2005;1(3):253-5. [CrossRef]

  • Erogul O, Oztas E, Yildirim I, Kir T, Aydur E, Komesli G, et al. Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular phone on human sperm motility: an in vitro study.Arch Med Res 2006;37(7):840-3. [CrossRef]

  • Agarwal A, Desai NR, Makker K, Varghese A, Mouradi R, Sabanegh E, et al. Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study.Fertil Steril 2009;92(4):1318-25. [CrossRef]

  • Agarwal A, Deepinder F, Sharma RK, Ranga G, Li J. Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinics: an observational study.Fertil Steril 2008;89(1):124-8. [CrossRef]

  • Fejes I, Závaczki Z, Szöllosi JS, Daru J, Kovács L, Pál A. Is there a relationship between cell phone use and semen quality?Arch Androl 2005;51(5):385-93. [CrossRef]

  • Wdowiak A, Wdowiak L, Wiktor H. Evaluation of the effect of using mobile phones on male fertility.Ann Agric Environ Med. 2007;14:169-72. [PubMed]

  • Levine RJ, Mathew RM, Chenault CB, Brown MH, Hurtt ME, Bentley KS, et al. Differences in the quality of semen in outdoor workers during summer and winter.N Engl J Med 1990;323:12-6.

  • Rowe PJ, Comhaire FH, Hargreave TB, Mellows HJ. WHO manual for the standardized investigation and diagnosis of the infertile couples. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1993.

  • Cooper TG, Neuwinger J, Bahrs S, Nieschlag E. Internal quality control of semen analysis.Fertil Steril 1992;58:172-8. [PubMed]

  • Mittwoch U. Sex determination and sex reversal: genotype, phenotype, dogma and semantics.Hum Genet 1992;89:467-79. [PubMed]

  • Jensen HT, Cooke PS, Porcelli J, Liu TC, Hensen LG. Estrogenic and antiestrogenic actions of pCBs in the female rat: in vitro studies.Reprod Toxicol 1993;7:237-48. [CrossRef]

  • Kelce WR, Stone CR, Laws SC, Gray LE, Kemppainen JA, Wilson EM. Persistent DDT metabolite p, p'DDE is a potent androgen receptor.Nature 1995;375:581-5.

  • Colborn T, Vom Saal FS, Soto AM. Developmental effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in wildlife and humans.Environ Health Perspect 1993;101:378-84. [CrossRef]

  • Tyler CR, Jobling S, Sumpter JP. Endocrine disruption in wildlife: a critical review of the evidence.Crit Rev Toxicol 1988;28(4):319-61.

  • Anderson AM, Skakkebaek NE. Exposure to exogenous estrogens in food: possible impact on human development and health.Eur J Endocrinol 1999;104(6):477-85. [CrossRef]

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.