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Arch Environ Health. 1984 Nov-Dec;39(6):431-40.

Endocrine and reproductive dysfunction in men associated with occupational inorganic lead intoxication.


In an attempt to define a postulated effect of lead on male endocrine function, seven men with symptomatic occupational lead intoxication (maximum whole blood lead levels 66-139 micrograms/dl) underwent in-patient endocrine evaluation at the time of diagnosis. Defects in thyroid function, probably of central origin, were present in three patients. Six patients had subnormal glucocorticoid production measured by 24-hr urinary 17-hydroxycorticosteroids and plasma cortisol responses to vasopressin- and/or insulin-induced hypoglycemia. Although serum testosterone concentration was normal in six patients, five had defects in spermatogenesis, including two with oligospermia and two with azoospermia. Repeat examinations after chelation therapy showed only partial improvement. It is concluded that heavy occupational exposure to lead, sufficient to cause clinical poisoning, may be associated with diffuse disturbances of endocrine and reproductive functions in men which are not rapidly reversible with standard treatment. Since men without overt poisoning have not been studied, these results cannot yet be included as sequelae of low-dose exposures.

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