Effect of smoking on blood lead levels in workers and role of reactive oxygen species in lead-induced sperm chromatin DNA damage

Fertil Steril. 2009 Apr;91(4):1096-103. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.01.005. Epub 2008 Mar 14.


Objective: To investigate whether cigarette smoking affects the blood lead levels (BLL) and whether exposure to lead introduces sperm chromatin DNA damage in factory workers.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: A battery plant in Taiwan.

Patient(s): Eighty male workers employed within a battery plant.

Intervention(s): Standard semen analysis was performed according to the World Health Organization guidelines.

Main outcome measure(s): Assessment of BLL, sperm chromatin DNA structure, reactive oxygen species generation and other conventional parameters of semen quality.

Result(s): As compared with nonsmoking workers, the BLL were found to be considerably higher among smokers. Statistically significant differences were found in the sperm DNA denaturation (alphaT) induction and the percentage of sperm with increased DNA denaturation (COMP alphaT) in workers with moderate BLL (>or=25 microg/dL). After adjustment for smoking propensity, a positive correlation was discernible between BLL and alphaT, COMP alphaT, and morphologic abnormality. Furthermore, alphaT and COMP alphaT were also found to have positive correlations with sperm superoxide anion production.

Conclusion(s): Workers with higher BLL were found to be at a higher risk of sperm morphologic abnormality and chromatin DNA integrity. These data are significant because they can facilitate the estimation of lead exposure in reproductive toxicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chemical Industry
  • Chromatin / drug effects
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Lead / adverse effects
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead / pharmacology
  • Lead Poisoning / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / genetics
  • Lead Poisoning / metabolism
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / pharmacology*
  • Semen Analysis
  • Smoking / blood*
  • Smoking / genetics
  • Smoking / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Lead