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Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Apr;113(4):425-30.

Evidence of interaction between polychlorinated biphenyls and phthalates in relation to human sperm motility.

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Department of Environmental Health, Occupational Health Program, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Previously, we reported evidence of inverse associations between exposure to some polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and some phthalate monoesters in relation to semen parameters, specifically sperm motility. Because humans are exposed to both phthalates and PCBs and because experimental studies suggest that PCBs may interact with glucuronidative enzymes that are responsible for phthalate metabolism, we explored the potential interaction between phthalates and PCBs in relation to human semen quality. We studied 303 men who were partners in subfertile couples seeking infertility diagnosis from the andrology laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. Semen parameters were dichotomized based on World Health Organization reference values, and phthalate and PCB levels were dichotomized at their respective medians. After adjusting for age and abstinence time, for below reference sperm motility there was a greater than additive interaction between monobenzyl phthalate and PCB-153 [relative excess risk due to interaction (RERI) = 1.40; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.41-3.22], sum of PCBs (RERI = 1.24; 95% CI, 0.15-2.94), and cytochrome P450 (CYP450)-inducing PCBs (RERI = 1.30; 95% CI, 0.21-3.06). For below-reference sperm motility, there was also a greater than additive interaction between monobutyl phthalate (MBP) and PCB-153 (RERI = 1.42; 95% CI, 0.09-3.76) and CYP450-inducing PCBs (RERI = 1.87; 95% CI, 0.56-4.52) and a suggestive interaction between MBP and sum of PCBs (RERI = 1.35; 95% CI, -0.11 to 3.48). In conclusion, because there are important risk assessment and public health implications of interactions between these two ubiquitous classes of compounds, further studies need to be conducted to confirm these results and identify potential mechanisms of interactions.

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