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J Androl. 2006 Jan-Feb;27(1):16-27.

Reduced seminal parameters associated with environmental DDT exposure and p,p'-DDE concentrations in men in Chiapas, Mexico: a cross-sectional study.

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  • 1Centre de Recherche en Biologie de la Reproduction, Département des Sciences Animales, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada.


In response to mounting concerns about the endocrine-disrupting influence of environmental chemicals on human health, this epidemiological study was initiated to test the hypothesis that nonoccupational exposure to the estrogenic pesticide 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(chlorodiphenyl)ethane (DDT) affects male reproductive parameters. One hundred and sixteen men aged 27 years (SD = 8.2) living in malaria endemic-areas in Chiapas (Mexico), where DDT was sprayed until 2000, participated in a cross-sectional study. Semen analyses were conducted according to World Health Organization methods and a quality control program was followed. DDT exposure was defined as the level of blood plasma p,p'-dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene (DDE), the major metabolite of DDT. The p,p'-DDE concentration adjusted for total lipids was 100 times higher than that reported for nonexposed populations at 45 plus or minus 32 mug/g (mean +/- SD). Crude regression analysis showed that several sperm motion parameters, including the percentage of motile sperm, decreased with higher p,p'-DDE concentrations (beta = -8.38; P = .05 for squared motility), and the percentage of sperm with morphological tail defects increased with higher plasma p,p'-DDE concentration (beta = 0.003; P = .017). Insufficient sperm chromatin condensation was observed in 46.6% of participants, and the most severe category of incomplete DNA condensation was also positively correlated with p,p'-DDE concentration (r = .223; P = .044). Therefore, nonoccupational exposure to DDT, as assessed by plasma p,p'-DDE concentrations, is associated with poorer semen parameters in men, indicating adverse effects on testicular function and/or the regulation of reproductive hormones. Previously, a causal role of environmental toxicants in human male infertility has been lacking because observed effects have been the result of unusually high exposures, either occupationally or as a result of industrial accidents, resulting in unprecedented controversy (reviewed by Cheek & McLachlan, Environmental hormones and the male reproductive system. J Androl. 1998;19:5). This is the first epidemiological study demonstrating effects after nonoccupational exposures to DDT. Based on these findings, the effect of DDT on male reproductive health should not be ignored.

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