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 Apr;111(4):409-13. doi: 10.1289/ehp.5767.


A time-related deterioration in male reproductive function caused by exposure to endocrine disrupters, including persistent organochlorines (POCs), has been hypothesized. In animal studies, POCs were found to have adverse effects on male reproductive function. However, little is known about the impact of POC exposure on reproductive parameters in men. In a study of 305 young Swedish men 18-21 years old from the general population, we correlated lipid-adjusted serum levels of 2,2',4,4',5,5' -hexachlorobiphenyl (CB-153)--an index substance for POC exposure--to markers of male reproductive function: testis size assessed by ultrasound, sperm concentration, total sperm count, sperm motility assessed manually and with a computer-aided sperm analyzer (CASA), and serum levels of follicle-stimulating hormone, inhibin B, testosterone, sexual hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), luteinizing hormone, and estradiol. We found weak but statistically significant, negative correlations between CB-153 levels and both the testosterone:SHBG ratio (r = -0.25, p < 0.001)--a measure of the biologically active free testosterone fraction--and CASA sperm motility (r = -0.13, p = 0.02). No statistically significant association with other seminal, hormonal, or clinical markers of male reproductive function was found. In previous studies of more highly POC-exposed groups of adult men, the correlation between POC exposure, including CB-153, and free testosterone levels was not statistically significant. The present study gives some tentative support for weak negative effects of CB-153 exposure on sperm motility and free testosterone levels in young men, but further semen studies on more highly exposed groups may give more firm conclusions on the hazard for male reproductive function from dietary POC exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / etiology*
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Testosterone
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • 2,4,5,2',4',5'-hexachlorobiphenyl