In utero exposure to persistent organochlorine pollutants and reproductive health in the human male.
Persistent organochlorine pollutants (POPs) are ubiquitous, bioaccumulative compounds with potential endocrine-disrupting effects. They cross the placental barrier thereby resulting in in utero exposure of the developing fetus. The objective of this study was to investigate whether maternal serum concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) during pregnancy are associated with son's semen quality and reproductive hormone levels. During 2008-2009, we recruited 176 male offspring from a Danish cohort of pregnant women who participated in a study in 1988-1989. Each provided semen and blood samples that were analyzed for sperm concentration, total sperm count, motility, and morphology, and reproductive hormone levels, respectively. The maternal blood samples were collected in pregnancy week 30 and were analyzed for the concentrations of six PCBs (PCB-118, -138, -153, -156, -170, and -180) and p,p'-DDE. The potential associations between in utero exposure to ?PCBs (pmol/ml), ?dioxin like-(DL) PCBs (PCB-118 and -156) (pmol/ml), and p,p'-DDE and semen quality and reproductive hormone levels were investigated using multiple regression. Maternal median (range) exposure levels of ?PCB, ?DL-PCB, and p,p'-DDE were 10.0 (2.1-35.0) pmol/ml, 0.8 (0.2-2.7) pmol/ml, and 8.0 (0.7-55.3) pmol/ml, respectively, reflecting typical background exposure levels in the late 1980s in Denmark. Results suggested that in utero exposure to ?PCB, ?DL-PCB, and p,p'-DDE was not statistically significantly associated with semen quality measures or reproductive hormone levels. Thus, results based on maternal PCB and p,p'-DDE concentrations alone are not indicative of long-term consequences for male reproductive health; however, we cannot exclude that these POPs in concert with other endocrine-modulating compounds may have adverse effects.