Background: Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are found globally in wildlife and humans and are suspected to act as endocrine disruptors. There are no previous reports of PFAA levels in adult men from Denmark or of a possible association between semen quality and PFAA exposure.
Objectives: We investigated possible associations between PFAAs and testicular function. We hypothesized that higher PFAA levels would be associated with lower semen quality and lower testosterone levels.
Methods: We analyzed serum samples for levels of 10 different PFAAs and reproductive hormones and assessed semen quality in 105 Danish men from the general population (median age, 19 years).
Results: Considerable levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid were found in all young men (medians of 24.5, 4.9, and 6.6 ng/mL, respectively). Men with high combined levels of PFOS and PFOA had a median of 6.2 million normal spermatozoa in their ejaculate in contrast to 15.5 million among men with low PFOS-PFOA (p = 0.030). In addition, we found nonsignificant trends with regard to lower sperm concentration, lower total sperm counts, and altered pituitary-gonadal hormones among men with high PFOS-PFOA levels.
Conclusion: High PFAA levels were associated with fewer normal sperm. Thus, high levels of PFAAs may contribute to the otherwise unexplained low semen quality often seen in young men. However, our findings need to be corroborated in larger studies.
Keywords: PFAA; PFC; endocrine disruptors; male reproductive health; perfluoroalkyl compounds; semen quality; sperm morphology; testosterone.