Exposure to environmental pollutants, specifically organochlorines, could lead to defective sperms in adolescents. A research published by scientists at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University is the first to investigate possible links between exposure to such chemicals in young adults and anomalies in sperm that could potentially lead to fertility problems in later years.

Examining Possibly Exposed Individuals

“Further research is needed to determine how organochlorines might be affecting the maturation of testicles and their subsequent function”, stated lead author Melissa Perry, ScD, MHS, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Milken Institute SPH. “Exposure to these chemicals in early adulthood could lead to reproductive complications years later.”

Perry’s team of researchers examined blood and sperm samples from 90 men who were residents of The Faroe Islands, a community in the North Atlantic. The population mainly consumes a seafood-rich diet that includes pilot whale meat and blubber. The latter leads to a higher-than-average exposure to organochlorine pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the insecticide DDT.

Along with measuring the concentration of organochlorine pollutants in the blood, sperm imaging methods were used to assess sperm disomy, an abnormality where sperm cells have an abnormal number of chromosomes.

Striking Results

Results revealed that men exposed t higher levels of DDT and PCB’s, as adults and at the age of 14, showed significantly higher rates of sperm disomy. These findings corroborate with previous studies where men were seeking help for infertility. A higher concentration of organochlorine chemicals in the blood were associated with similar kinds of sperm abnormalities.

Suggestions And Recommendations

Despite their ban, organochlorine chemicals are still extensively used in the US and various tropical countries. Even if their use is prohibited, these chemicals remain leached in soil and water. A diet including lots of meat, fatty fish and dairy potentially exposes US citizens to these environmental pollutants.

“Many people can reduce their exposure to PCBs and DDT by cutting back on foods that are high in animal fats and choosing fish wisely”, Perry suggests.

Moreover, these findings raise pertinent questions for policymakers involved in the regulation of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

“This study suggests that any decisions regarding the impact of biologically active chemicals on the environment must be made carefully, since there can be unanticipated consequences down the line.”