Decreased human semen quality and organochlorine compounds in blood

Hum Reprod. 2002 Aug;17(8):1973-9. doi: 10.1093/humrep/17.8.1973.


Background: Various studies have been performed in which potential effects of xenoestrogens on fertility or sperm parameters were investigated by comparing groups of subjects exposed to different levels of these chemicals.

Methods: In our study we used an alternative approach, as we selected one group of men with very poor semen quality and another group with normal semen quality and determined the blood organochlorine contents in order to determine whether a difference in these levels could be established. Organochlorine compounds, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and PCB metabolites, were detected using gas chromatography. The concentrations were compared between both groups, and related to semen parameters.

Results: A comparison of both groups did not reveal significant differences in organochlorine levels. Linear relationships were found when PCB and metabolite concentrations were related to the age of the volunteers. Focusing on the subgroup of men with normal semen quality showed that sperm count and sperm progressive motility were inversely related to the concentrations of PCB metabolites within this group.

Conclusions: The finding of a significantly decreased sperm count in relation to an elevated PCB metabolite level within the subgroup of men with normal semen quality is important. This is the first time that a correlation between exposure to environmental pollutants with endocrine-disrupting capacity and human sperm quality has been observed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / blood
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / metabolism
  • Infertility, Female
  • Infertility, Male / blood*
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Semen / physiology*
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls