Swan SH, “Semen quality in fertile US men in relation to geographical area and pesticide exposure,” International Journal of Andrology, 2006, 29:1.
ABSTRACT: We conducted the first US study to compare semen quality among study centres using standardized methods and strict quality control. We present data on semen quality in partners of 493 pregnant women recruited through prenatal clinics in four US cities during 1999-2001. Sperm concentration, semen volume and motility were determined at the centres and morphology was assessed at a central laboratory. While between-centre differences in sperm morphology and sample volume were small, sperm concentration and motility were significantly reduced in Columbia, MO (MO) relative to men in New York, NY, Minneapolis, MN and Los Angeles, CA; total number of motile sperm was 113 x 10(6) in MO and 162, 201 and 196 x 10(6) in CA, MN and NY respectively. Differences among centres remained significant in multivariate models that controlled for abstinence time, semen analysis time, age, race, smoking, history of sexually transmitted disease and recent fever (all p-values <0.01). We hypothesized that poorer sperm concentration and motility in MO men relative to other centres might be related to agricultural pesticides that are commonly used in the mid-west. We investigated this hypothesis by conducting a nested case-control study within the MO cohort. We selected 25 men in this cohort for whom all semen parameters (concentration, % normal morphology and % motile) were low as cases and an equal number of men for whom all semen parameters were within normal limits as controls. We measured metabolites of eight non-persistent, current-use pesticides in urine samples the men had provided at the time of semen collection. Pesticide metabolite levels were elevated in cases compared with controls for the herbicides alachlor and atrazine, and for the insecticide diazinon (2-isopropoxy-4-methyl-pyrimidinol) (p-values for Wilcoxon rank test = 0.0007, 0.012, and 0.0004 for alachlor, atrazine and diazinon respectively). Men with higher levels of alachlor or diazinon were significantly more likely to be cases than men with low levels [odds ratios (OR) = 30.0, 16.7 for alachlor and diazinon respectively], as were men with atrazine over the limit of detection (OR = 11.3). These associations between current-use pesticides and reduced semen quality suggest that agricultural chemicals may have contributed to the reduced semen quality seen in fertile men from mid-Missouri.