Spontaneous abortion, sex ratio, and paternal occupational exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin

Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Nov;109(11):1127-32. doi: 10.1289/ehp.011091127.


There is conflicting research regarding an association between fetal death and paternal exposure to Agent Orange, a phenoxy herbicide widely used in Vietnam that was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Men who worked in the U.S. factories that produced Agent Orange were exposed to TCDD at levels hundreds of times higher than TCDD levels in the general population. Wives of TCDD-exposed chemical workers and wives of nonexposed neighborhood referents were interviewed to determine reproductive history. Paternal serum TCDD level at time of conception was estimated for each pregnancy using serum samples taken in 1987. Estimated TCDD levels of workers during or after exposure were high (median, 254 ppt; range, 3-16,340 ppt) compared to referent levels (median, 6 ppt; range, 2-19 ppt). No association between paternal TCDD level at the time of conception and spontaneous abortion was observed among pregnancies fathered by workers with TCDD levels of < 20 ppt [odds ratio (OR) = 0.77; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.48-1.22], 20 to < 255 ppt (OR = 0.81; 95% CI, 0.40-1.63), 255 to < 1,120, (OR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.30-1.58), and >or= 1,120 ppt (OR = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.42-2.17) compared to pregnancies fathered by referents. The sex ratio [males/(males + females)] of offspring also did not differ by TCDD exposure (0.53 and 0.54 among workers and referents, respectively). We did not find an association between paternal serum TCDD level and spontaneous abortion or sex ratio of offspring in this population. The estimated TCDD levels in this exposed worker population were much higher than in other studies, providing additional evidence that paternal TCDD exposure does not increase the risk of spontaneous abortion at levels above those observed in the general population. The study could not evaluate the effect of father's childhood or prenatal TCDD exposure on subsequent sex ratio.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / chemically induced*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Paternal Exposure*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Ratio*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins