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. 2014 Mar;122(3):304-9.
doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205984. Epub 2013 Dec 20.

Relationships of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) With Testosterone Levels in Adolescent Males

Free PMC article

Relationships of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) With Testosterone Levels in Adolescent Males

Lawrence M Schell et al. Environ Health Perspect. .
Free PMC article


Background: Concern persists over endocrine-disrupting effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on human growth and sexual maturation. Potential effects of toxicant exposures on testosterone levels during puberty are not well characterized.

Objectives: In this study we evaluated the relationship between toxicants [polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p´-DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and lead] and testosterone levels among 127 Akwesasne Mohawk males 10 to < 17 years of age with documented toxicant exposures.

Methods: Data were collected between February 1996 and January 2000. Fasting blood specimens were collected before breakfast by trained Akwesasne Mohawk staff. Multivariable regression models were used to estimates associations between toxicants and serum testosterone, adjusted for other toxicants, Tanner stage, and potential confounders.

Results: The sum of 16 PCB congeners (Σ16PCBs) that were detected in ≥ 50% of the population was significantly and negatively associated with serum testosterone levels, such that a 10% change in exposure was associated with a 5.6% decrease in testosterone (95% CI: -10.8, -0.5%). Of the 16 congeners, the more persistent ones (Σ8PerPCBs) were related to testosterone, whereas the less persistent ones, possibly reflecting more recent exposure, were not. When PCB congeners were subgrouped, the association was significant for the sum of eight more persistent PCBs (5.7% decrease; 95% CI: -11, -0.4%), and stronger than the sum of six less persistent congeners (3.1% decrease; 95% CI: -7.2, 0.9%). p,p´-DDE was positively but not significantly associated with serum testosterone (5.2% increase with a 10% increase in exposure; 95% CI: -0.5, 10.9%). Neither lead nor HCB was significantly associated with testosterone levels.

Conclusions: Exposure to PCBs, particularly the more highly persistent congeners, may negatively influence testosterone levels among adolescent males. The positive relationship between p,p´-DDE and testosterone indicates that not all POPs act similarly.

Citation: Schell LM, Gallo MV, Deane GD, Nelder KR, DeCaprio AP, Jacobs A; Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment. 2014. Relationships of polychlorinated biphenyls and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p´-DDE) with testosterone levels in adolescent males. Environ Health Perspect 122:304-309;

Conflict of interest statement

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities or the National Institutes of Health.

Members of the Akwesasne community have been involved in a lawsuit against a local industry that has contributed to the pollution of the St. Lawrence River and/or its tributaries. Some of these members are related to the authors who are members of the community (A.J. and the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment).

The authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.

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