Change in semen quality and sperm chromatin structure following occupational styrene exposure. ASCLEPIOS

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1999 May;72(3):135-41.


Objectives: Organic solvents have been suspected to exert detrimental effects on human spermiogenesis. Styrene, which is both mutagenic and neurotoxic, was selected as a suitable organic solvent for further assessment of a possible effect on semen quality and sperm DNA damage.

Subjects and methods: Semen samples were collected from 23 reinforced plastics workers at the time of employment and after 6 months of styrene exposure and from 21 nonexposed farmers. Intra-individual changes in conventional semen parameters and sperm-DNA denaturation patterns were related to the internal dose of styrene exposure as measured by postshift urinary mandelic acid.

Results: A statistically significant decline in sperm density was seen during styrene exposure from 63.5 to 46.0 million sperm/ml, whereas no decline was seen in the nonexposed subjects. The total sperm count was almost halved from an initial value of 175 million sperm/ejaculate. However, no relationship was apparent when the sperm parameters were related to internal levels of exposure. However, an exposure-response relationship was shown for DNA-denaturation patterns, but the numbers were small.

Conclusion: A declining sperm count following styrene exposure is suggested. However, the findings of the internal and external comparisons are inconsistent, and this may be due to the high intraindividual variability of semen parameters and the limited study size but may also be attributable to a weak internal exposure gradient. Spermatogenesis may be vulnerable to styrene exposure. However, due to the small numbers these findings are only preliminary.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Chromatin / drug effects*
  • Denmark
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandelic Acids / urine
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Plastics
  • Respiratory Protective Devices
  • Semen / drug effects*
  • Semen / physiology
  • Sperm Count / drug effects
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Sperm Motility / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology
  • Styrene / adverse effects*
  • Styrene / metabolism
  • Workplace


  • Chromatin
  • Mandelic Acids
  • Plastics
  • Styrene
  • mandelic acid