Semen Quality of Workers Exposed to Ionizing Radiation in Decontamination Work after the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor Accident

Int J Occup Environ Health. 1997 Jul;3(3):198-203. doi: 10.1179/oeh.1997.3.3.198.


The objective of the study was to assess effects of radiation on sperm quality, including ultramorphology of spermatozoa of men who worked as salvage workers at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident site or in the adjacent region. Semen characteristics were assessed by light microscopy, biochemical analysis, and quantitative ultramorphologic analysis seven years after the accident. Samples were collected in the Ukraine, examined there by routine semen analysis, fixed, and transferred to Israel for further examinations. The study population consisted of 18 radiation-exposed individuals. Eighteen unexposed Ukrainian men were examined as controls. Sperm motility was found to be reduced in the radiation-exposed workers. Ultramorphologic defects were evident in the sperm nucleus. Fertility potential was adversely affected among the exposed workers. Thus, salvage workers who had worked at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident site or in the vicinity thereof were found to manifest ultramorphologic abnormalities in the sperm nucleus and to have impaired fertility potential seven years after the radiation exposure. The injury was independent of whether the work site had been located at the reactor site or in the vicinity thereof.