Background: During the last decades, there has been concern that exposure to endocrine disruptors, such as persistent organochlorine pollutants (POPs), may contribute to an impairment of male reproductive function. To investigate whether exposure to 2,2'4,4'5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (CB-153) and 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)-ethylene (p,p'-DDE) affects semen quantity and quality and reproductive hormones, 195 Swedish fishermen, aged 24-65 years, were investigated.
Methods: The men provided semen samples which were analysed in a mobile laboratory unit. Blood samples and information relating to lifestyle, medical and reproductive history were obtained.
Results: The subjects had a median CB-153 serum level of 193 ng/g lipid (range 39-1460) and a median p,p'-DDE serum level of 240 ng/g lipid (range 334-2251). When CB-153 was categorized into quintiles, the subjects in the quintile with the highest concentration (> 328 ng/g lipid), tended to have decreased sperm motility compared with the subjects in the lowest quintile (< 113 ng/g lipid). The age-adjusted mean difference was 9.9% (95% confidence interval -1.0 to 21% P = 0.08). We found no significant associations between p,p'-DDE and semen characteristics or reproductive hormones.
Conclusion: The association between CB-153 and sperm motility, although not formally significant, is of interest considering the possible endocrine-disrupting effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).