Evidence of reproductive endocrine effects in women with occupational fuel and solvent exposures

Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Aug;110(8):805-11. doi: 10.1289/ehp.02110805.


Hydrocarbons (HCs) found in fuels and solvents are ubiquitous in the environment, yet we know little about their effects on the endocrine system. The objective of this study was to assess the potential reproductive endocrine effects of low-dose HCs encountered by female U.S. Air Force personnel with fuel (primarily JP-8 jet fuel) and solvent exposures (n = 63). We estimated the internal dose of HCs in fuels and solvents by measuring their levels in exhaled breath, including the sum of aliphatic HCs (C6H14-C16H34) and the sum of aromatic HCs (benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and m,p,o-xylenes). Adverse outcome measures included urinary endocrine markers that have been associated with nonconceptive (vs. conceptive) menstrual cycles in ovulatory women: lower preovulatory luteinizing hormone (LH) and mid-luteal phase pregnanediol 3-glucuronide (Pd3G) and estrone 3-glucuronide, and higher follicle phase Pd3G. We also obtained reproductive and exposure information from baseline questionnaires and daily diaries. Toluene was the most frequently found analyte in the breath, with values up to 52.0 ppb, and benzene breath levels were up to 97.5 ppb. Regression analysis revealed that preovulatory LH levels were significantly lower (p = 0.007) among women whose total aliphatic HC levels were above the median. The relationship between elevated aliphatic HC exposure and lowered preovulatory LH levels in the present study suggests that compounds in fuels and some solvents may act as reproductive endocrine disruptors. Confirmation of these findings is needed, not only to determine if fuel and solvent exposure may impact other LH-dependent physiologic functions but also to examine effects of fuels and solvents on conception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breath Tests
  • Female
  • Fossil Fuels / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / adverse effects*
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Luteinizing Hormone / analysis*
  • Military Personnel
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Solvents / adverse effects*


  • Fossil Fuels
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Solvents
  • Luteinizing Hormone