Objectives: The aim of this prospective study was to investigate whether occupational pesticide exposure during pregnancy causes adverse effects on the reproductive development in the male infants.
Design and measurements: Pregnant women employed in greenhouses in Denmark were consecutively recruited, and 113 mother-son pairs were included. The mothers were categorized as occupationally exposed (91 sons) or unexposed (22 sons) to pesticides during pregnancy. Testicular position and volume, penile length, and position of urethral opening were determined at 3 months of age using standardized techniques. Concentrations of reproductive hormones in serum from the boys were analyzed.
Results: The prevalence of cryptorchidism at 3 months of age was 6.2% [95% confidence interval (CI), 3.0-12.4]. This prevalence was considerably higher than among Danish boys born in the Copenhagen area (1.9%; 95% CI, 1.2-3.0) examined by the same procedure. Boys of pesticide-exposed mothers showed decreased penile length, testicular volume, serum concentrations of testosterone, and inhibin B. Serum concentrations of sex hormone-binding globulin, follicle-stimulating hormone, and the luteinizing hormone:testosterone ratio were increased compared with boys of nonexposed mothers. For individual parameters, only the decreased penile length was statistically significant (p = 0.04). However, all observed effects were in the anticipated direction, and a joint multivariate test showed that this finding had a p-value of 0.012.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest an adverse effect of maternal occupational pesticide exposure on reproductive development in the sons despite current greenhouse safeguards and special measures to protect pregnant women.
Keywords: cryptorchidism; greenhouse workers; hormones; occupational exposure; pesticides; prenatal; reproductive development.