Fertility and markers of male reproductive function in Inuit and European populations spanning large contrasts in blood levels of persistent organochlorines

Jens Peter Bonde, Gunnar Toft, Lars Rylander, Anna Rignell-Hydbom, Aleksander Giwercman, Marcello Spano, Gian Carlo Manicardi, Davide Bizzaro, Jan K. Ludwicki, Valentina Zvyezday, Eva C. Bonefeld-Jörgensen, Henning Sloth Pedersen, Bo A.G. Jönsson, Ane Marie Thulstrup

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

78 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: We synthesized the main findings from an international epidemiologic study on the impact of biopersistent organic pollutants (POPs) on human reproductive function. Data sources and extraction: We used a database with interview and biological data from 2,269 women and their spouses, and 18 published core papers. Data synthesis: The study did not provide direct evidence of hormone-like activity of the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congener CB-153 and the main dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) metabolite, 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene (p,p'-DDE), as serum concentrations of these compounds were not consistently related to either endogenous or exogenous hormone activity in serum. Nevertheless several links bewteen POP exposure and biomarkers of male reproductive function were identified. First, an association between high CB-153 serum levels and low sperm counts was detected within a subgroup of men with short androgen receptor CAG repeat length. Second, a relationship between increased CB-153 serum concentrations and decreased sperm motility was seen in all four studied regions, and indications of reduced neutral α-glucosidase activity in seminal plasma point to a post-testicular effect. Third, damage of sperm chromatin integrity was considerably less frequent in Greenlandic Inuits compared with that in European groups, and only in the latter was impairment of sperm chromatin integrity related to POPs. Despite these effects, fertility in terms of time taken to conceive was not related to POPs except in Inuits. A likely explanation of the latter was not identified. Conclusions: POPs may interfere with male reproductive function without major impact on fertility. The data do not provide direct evidence for endocrine disruption, hence other mechanisms should also be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269 - 277
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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