Effects of exposure to ethylene glycol ethers on shipyard painters: II. Male reproduction

Am J Ind Med. 1988;14(5):509-26. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700140503.


To determine whether 2-ethoxyethanol (2-EE) and 2-methoxyethanol (2-ME) affected the reproductive potential of exposed men, we examined the semen of 73 painters and 40 controls who work in a large shipyard. An industrial hygiene survey was performed to characterize the work environment. The men supplied information on demographic characteristics, medical conditions, personal habits, and reproductive history; underwent a physical examination; and provided a semen sample. Semen samples were analyzed for pH, volume, turbidity, liquidity, viability by stain exclusion and hypo-osmotic stress, sperm density and count per ejaculate, motility using a videotape technique, morphology, and morphometry. Serum was analyzed for testosterone, FSH, and LH. The industrial hygiene survey revealed that the painters were exposed to 2-EE at a time-weighted average (TWA) of 0-80.5 mg/m3 with a mean of 9.9 mg/m3, and to 2-ME at a TWA of 0-17.7 mg/m3 with a mean of 2.6 mg/m3. Painters had an increased prevalence of oligospermia and azoospermia and an increased odds ratio for a lower sperm count per ejaculate, while smoking was controlled. This finding is consistent with prior animal studies and with one human study. Potential biases and confounding of the data are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Ethylene Glycols / adverse effects*
  • Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Oligospermia / chemically induced*
  • Paint / adverse effects
  • Paint / analysis
  • Respiratory Protective Devices
  • Semen / drug effects
  • Ships*
  • Smoking / adverse effects


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Hormones
  • Lead
  • methyl cellosolve
  • 2-ethoxyethanol