Occupational exposure to pesticides and consequences on male semen and fertility: a review

Toxicol Lett. 2014 Oct 15;230(2):146-56. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.01.029. Epub 2014 Jan 30.


Exposure to pesticides affects many body organs including reproductive system. Disorder of the reproductive system leads to infertility and therefore has been in the center of attention within the recent decades. Pesticides are one of the compounds that might reduce the semen quality in the exposed workers according to current knowledge. Although many underlying mechanisms have been proposed, the mechanisms of action are not clarified yet. The object of the present review was to criticize all the results of studies which evaluated the pesticide effects on male reproductive system. Results indicate that semen changes are multifactorial in the workers exposed to pesticides as there are numerous factors affecting sperm quality in occupational exposures. Majority of pesticides including organophosphoruses affect the male reproductive system by mechanisms such as reduction of sperm density and motility, inhibition of spermatogenesis, reduction of testis weights, reduction of sperm counts, motility, viability and density, and inducing sperm DNA damage, and increasing abnormal sperm morphology. Reduced weight of testes, epididymis, seminal vesicle, and ventral prostate, seminiferous tubule degeneration, change in plasma levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH), decreased level and activity of the antioxidant enzymes in testes, and inhibited testicular steroidogenesis are other possible mechanisms. Moreover, DDT and its metabolites have estrogenic effects on males. Although effect of pesticides on sperm quality is undeniable, well-designed long-term studies are needed to elucidate all the possible affecting variables such as socioeconomic, cultural, nutritional, occupational, physical, and clinical characteristics alongside pesticides.

Keywords: Male reproductive system; Pesticides; Review; Semen; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Organophosphates / toxicity
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Pyrethrins / toxicity
  • Semen / drug effects*
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Organophosphates
  • Pesticides
  • Pyrethrins