Reproductive hormone levels in men exposed to persistent organohalogen pollutants: a study of inuit and three European cohorts

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Sep;114(9):1348-53. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8935.


Objective: Persistent organohalogen pollutant (POP) exposure may have a negative impact on reproductive function. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of POP exposure on the male hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis.

Participants: Participants included 184 Swedish fishermen and spouses of pregnant women from Greenland (n = 258), Warsaw, Poland (n = 113) , and Kharkiv, Ukraine (n = 194).

Evaluations/measurements: Serum levels of 2,2,4,4,5,5-hexachlorobiphenyl (CB-153) and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (p,p -DDE) were determined in the four populations, showing different exposure patterns: Swedish fishermen, high CB-153/low p,p -DDE; Greenland, high CB-153/high p,p -DDE; Warsaw, low CB-153/moderate p,p -DDE; Kharkiv, low CB-153/high p,p -DDE. Serum was also analyzed for testosterone, estradiol, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) , inhibin B, luteinizing hormone (LH) , and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) . Free testosterone levels were calculated based on testosterone and SHBG.

Results: We found significant center-to-center variations in the associations between exposure and the outcomes. The most pronounced effects were observed in Kharkiv, where statistically significant positive associations were found between the levels of both CB-153 and p,p -DDE and SHBG, as well as LH. In Greenland, there was a positive association between CB-153 exposure and LH. In the pooled data set from all four centers, there was positive association between p,p -DDE and FSH levels [beta = 1.1 IU/L; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.0-1.1 IU/L]. The association between CB-153 levels and SHBG was of borderline statistical significance (beta = 0.90 nmol/L; 95% CI, -0.04 to 1.9 nmol/L).

Conclusions: Gonadotropin levels and SHBG seem to be affected by POP exposure, but the pattern of endocrine response is the subject of considerable geographic variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / toxicity
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / blood*
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / toxicity*
  • Inhibins / blood
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • inhibin B
  • Testosterone
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Estradiol
  • Inhibins
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls