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Chin Med J (Engl). 1999 Aug;112(8):709-12.

Effect of benzene, toluene, xylene on the semen quality of exposed workers.

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Ningbo Health and Anti-epidemic Center, Ningbo 315010, Zhejiang Province, China.



To examine the effects on semen and sperm quality of workers after a short and long term exposure to benzene, toluene, and xylene.


The semen and blood of 24 married workers exposed to benzene, toluene, and xylene from shoemaking, spray painting, or paint manufacturing factories were collected. The concentration of benzene, toluene, and xylene in the blood and semen was determined by using headspace chromatographic method. Routine sperm test was carried out and acrosin activity detected.


The results showed that benzene, toluene, and xylene were found in the blood and semen of some ex-workers in a working environment where the air concentration of benzene, toluene, and xylene exceeded the maximum allowable concentration (MAC). This result was not found in workers of the control group. There were also some effects on the quality of semen in the exposed workers. For example, the percentage of semen with liquefaction time exceeding 30 minutes increased. The sperm vitality, motility and acrosin activity decreased. At the same time, there were a positive correlation between liquefaction time and the level of toluene in semen, and a negative correlation between sperm vitality, sperm activity or acrosin activity and working history.


The results suggested that the mixture could affect the quality of semen and sperm, which might be the main reason of the abnormal pregnancy outcome among the wives of workers exposed to benzene, toluene, and xylene. Further studies are, however, required to confirm these findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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