Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Male Reproductive Health: Do PFOA and PFOS Increase Risk for Male Infertility?

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 5;18(7):3794. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18073794.


Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade synthetic chemicals which have been in existence for over 70 years. Though they are currently being phased out, their persistence in the environment is widespread. There is increasing evidence linking PFAS exposure to health effects, an issue of concern since PFAS such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) bioaccumulate in humans, with a half-life of years. Many epidemiological studies suggest that, worldwide, semen quality has decreased over the past several decades. One of the most worrying effects of PFOS and PFOA is their associations with lower testosterone levels, similar to clinical observations in infertile men. This review thus focuses on PFOS/PFOA-associated effects on male reproductive health. The sources of PFAS in drinking water are listed. The current epidemiological studies linking increased exposure to PFAS with lowered testosterone and semen quality, and evidence from rodent studies supporting their function as endocrine disruptors on the reproductive system, exhibiting non-monotonic dose responses, are noted. Finally, their mechanisms of action and possible toxic effects on the Leydig, Sertoli, and germ cells are discussed. Future research efforts must consider utilizing better human model systems for exposure, using more accurate PFAS exposure susceptibility windows, and improvements in statistical modeling of data to account for the endocrine disruptor properties of PFAS.

Keywords: PFOA; PFOS; epidemiological; mice; perfluorooctane sulfonate; perfluorooctanoate; rats; sperm; spermatogenesis; testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids* / toxicity
  • Caprylates / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Fluorocarbons* / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male* / chemically induced
  • Infertility, Male* / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Reproductive Health
  • Semen Analysis


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid