Semen analysis of military personnel associated with military duty assignments

Reprod Toxicol. 1996 Nov-Dec;10(6):521-8. doi: 10.1016/s0890-6238(96)00139-6.


A collaborative study between the U.S. Army Biomedical Research and Development Laboratory (USABRDL) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was designed to assess fecundity of male artillery soldiers with potential exposures to airborne lead aerosols. Potential exposure assessment was based upon information provided in an interactive questionnaire. It became apparent from extensive questionnaire data that many soldiers in the initial control population had potentially experienced microwave exposure as radar equipment operators. As a result, a third group of soldiers without potential for lead or microwave exposures, but with similar environmental conditions, was selected as a comparison population. Blood hormone levels and semen analyses were conducted on artillerymen (n = 30), radar equipment operators (n = 20), and the comparison group (n = 31). Analysis of the questionnaire information revealed that concern about fertility problems motivated participation of some soldiers with potential artillery or microwave exposures. Although small study population size and the confounding variable of perceived infertility limit the reliability of the study, several statistically significant findings were identified. Artillerymen who perceived a possible fertility concern demonstrated lower sperm counts/ejaculate (P = 0.067) and lower sperm/mL (P = 0.014) than the comparison group. The group of men with potential microwave exposures demonstrated lower sperm counts/mL (P = 0.009) and sperm/ejaculate (P = 0.027) than the comparison group. Variables used to assess endocrine, accessory sex gland, and sperm cell function were not different than the comparison group. Additional studies, incorporating larger numbers of individuals, should be performed in order to more optimally characterize potential lead and microwave exposure effects on male fecundity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lead / adverse effects*
  • Lead / blood
  • Male
  • Microwaves / adverse effects*
  • Military Personnel*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Semen / drug effects*
  • Semen / radiation effects*
  • Sperm Count
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / radiation effects
  • United States


  • Lead