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Andrologia. 1989 May-Jun;21(3):282-91.

Toxic environmental chemicals in human semen: analytical method and case studies.

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Bremer Umweltinstitut für die Analyse und Bewertung von Schadstoffen, Bremen, FRG.


In 1982, 89 men from all over the FRG participated in an investigation of sperm density and the presence of selected persistent environmental chemicals in their semen. Semen concentrations for the following chemicals were measured: lead, cadmium, hexachlorobenzene (HCBC), a-hexachlorocyclohexane (a-BHC), DDT and metabolites, dieldrin and polychlorobiphenyls (PBC). Heavy metal analyses were performed by Zeeman-AAS with direct sample measurement. A method for the quantitative determination of chlorinated hydrocarbons in semen by liquid-liquid extraction, clean-up and quantitation by gas chromatography with an electron capture detector. Recovery rates ranged from 72 to 120%. Compound identification in samples was confirmed by negative chemical ionization mass spectrometry. Heavy metals and organochlorine compounds in semen were present in the same concentration range as in blood or other biofluids. Occupational exposure as well as extraordinary environmental exposure appeared to influence semen concentrations. Students in chemistry showed elevated levels of organochlorine compounds. Men who lived in the vicinity of an atmospheric source of heavy metals showed strikingly the vicinity of an atmospheric source of heavy metals showed strikingly elevated levels of semen lead and cadmium. We were unable to find a statistically significant correlation between sperm density and any of the variables examined in this study including: orgonochlorine compounds summed or individually; lead and/or cadmium; and tobacco consumption. Significant correlations were found between the simultaneous occurrence of lead and cadmium and between the simultaneous occurrence of HCB, DDT and DDE.

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