DOI: 10.3390/toxics12010006 ISSN: 2305-6304

Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Semen Quality in Healthy Young Men Living in a Contaminated Area

Francesco Donato, Matteo Rota, Elisabetta Ceretti, Gaia Claudia Viviana Viola, Monica Marullo, Danilo Zani, Angela Amoresano, Carolina Fontanarosa, Michele Spinelli, Stefano Lorenzetti, Luigi Montano
  • Chemical Health and Safety
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic pollutants and endocrine disruptors that have been implicated in potential damage to human semen. However, the studies conducted so far provide contrasting results. Our study aimed to investigate the associations between PCB serum and semen levels and semen quality in high school and university students living in a highly PCB-polluted area of Italy. Subjects with a normal body mass index who did not make daily use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or medication were selected. All participants provided a fasting blood and a semen sample. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to determine the concentrations of 26 PCB congeners. The concentrations of PCB functional groups and total PCBs were also computed. A total of 143 subjects (median age 20, range 18–22 years) were enrolled. The median total PCB concentrations were 3.85 ng/mL (range 3.43–4.56 ng/mL) and 0.29 ng/mL (range 0.26–0.32 ng/mL) in serum and semen, respectively. The analysis of the associations between sperm PCB concentration and semen parameters showed (a) negative associations between some PCB congeners, functional groups and total PCBs and sperm total motility; (b) negative associations of total PCBs with sperm normal morphology; and (c) no association of PCBs with sperm concentration. Subjects at the highest quartile of semen total PCB concentration had 19% and 23% mean reductions in total motility and normal morphology, respectively, compared to those at the lowest quartile. The analysis of the associations of serum PCB levels with sperm parameters yielded null or mixed (some positive, other negative) results. In conclusion, the present study provides evidence of a negative effect of some PCB congeners and total PCBs in semen on sperm motility and normal morphology. However, the associations between the concentration of serum and semen PCB congeners and functional groups and sperm quality parameters were inconsistent.

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