Persistent organic pollutants and semen quality: The LIFE Study.
Growing evidence suggests that persistent environmental chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls may adversely affect human fecundity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate associations between persistent environmental chemicals and semen quality among 501 male partners of couples discontinuing contraception for purposes of becoming pregnant. Men provided a blood specimen and two fresh semen samples collected approximately a month apart that underwent next day analysis for 35 semen quality endpoints. Serum samples were analyzed for 36 polychlorinated biphenyls (congeners #18, 28, 44, 49, 52, 66, 74, 87, 99, 101, 114, 118, 128, 138, 146, 149, 151, 153, 156, 157, 167, 170, 172, 177, 178, 180, 183, 187, 189, 194, 195, 196, 201, 206, 209); 1 polybrominated biphenyl (#153); 9 organochlorine pesticides; and 10 polybrominated diphenyl ethers (congeners #17, 28, 47, 66, 85, 99, 100, 153, 154183) using high resolution mass spectrometry. To estimate the effect of chemicals on semen quality, we regressed each semen marker on each chemical while adjusting for research site, age, body mass index, serum lipids, and cotinine levels. Males with chemical concentrations in the fourth quartile, as compared to the first quartile, showed significant associations for several individual chemicals in each chemical class and type of semen quality parameter indicating negative and positive associations with semen quality. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in particular were associated with several measures of increased abnormal morphology. These exploratory results highlight the role of environmental influences on male fecundity, and are of particular interest given the ubiquitous exposures to these compounds.