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Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Apr;121(4):453-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205118. Epub 2013 Jan 28.

Associations of in utero exposure to perfluorinated alkyl acids with human semen quality and reproductive hormones in adult men.

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Danish Ramazzini Centre, Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.



Perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs), persistent chemicals with unique water-, dirt-, and oil-repellent properties, are suspected of having endocrine-disrupting activity. The PFAA compounds perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are found globally in humans; because they readily cross the placental barrier, in utero exposure may be a cause for concern.


We investigated whether in utero exposure to PFOA and PFOS affects semen quality, testicular volume, and reproductive hormone levels.


We recruited 169 male offspring (19-21 years of age) from a pregnancy cohort established in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1988-1989, corresponding to 37.6% of the eligible sons. Each man provided a semen sample and a blood sample. Semen samples were analyzed for sperm concentration, total sperm count, motility, and morphology, and blood samples were used to measure reproductive hormones. As a proxy for in utero exposure, PFOA and PFOS were measured in maternal blood samples from pregnancy week 30.


Multivariable linear regression analysis suggested that in utero exposure to PFOA was associated with lower adjusted sperm concentration (ptrend = 0.01) and total sperm count (ptrend = 0.001) and with higher adjusted levels of luteinizing hormone (ptrend = 0.03) and follicle-stimulating hormone (ptrend = 0.01). PFOS did not appear to be associated with any of the outcomes assessed, before or after adjustment.


The results suggest that in utero exposure to PFOA may affect adult human male semen quality and reproductive hormone levels.

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