ISSN 1662-4009 (online)

ESPE Yearbook of Paediatric Endocrinology (2021) 18 15.10 | DOI: 10.1530/ey.18.15.10

ESPEYB18 15. Editors’ Choice (1) (16 abstracts)

15.10. Maternal occupational exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during pregnancy and semen parameters in adulthood: results of a nationwide cross-sectional study among Swiss conscripts

M Istvan , R Rahban , B Dananche , A Senn , E Stettler , L Multigner , S Nef & R Garlantézec

Human Reproduction, 2021; 36(7): 1948–1958

This cross-sectional study shows that men who had been exposed in utero to endocrine disruptors (EDC) are twice more likely to have a low sperm count, below the reference values per ejaculation set by the World Health Organisation.

Male reproductive function is known to be highly sensitive to a number of chemical compounds generated by industrial and agricultural activities. There is convincing evidence that exposure to chemical agents present in certain occupational activities and environments during adulthood can affect testicular function and male fertility. Furthermore, exposure during antenatal development is suspected to influence male reproductive health later in life, including fertility.

Here, the authors studied Swiss conscripts aged 18 to 22. Maternal occupational exposure to potential EDC categories was defined using a job-exposure matrix (JEM). Overall, 2,326 conscripts (with gestation in Switzerland) provided a completed questionnaire and semen sample. Probability of maternal occupational exposure was assigned by three occupational hygienists from the JEM comprising 353 job titles into three levels of exposure: ‘unlikely’, ‘possible and ‘probable’. 14.0% of mothers were classified as exposed during pregnancy to at least one EDC category, by working in subsistence agriculture (71.2%) or as beauticians/hairdressers (21.9%). The most frequently affected semen parameters were the seminal volume and total sperm count per ejaculation, rather than sperm motility or morphology, regardless of the EDC category.

The findings indicate an adverse effect of fetal exposure to pesticides, phthalates, and heavy metals on later fertility in men. The authors argue for the need to inform pregnant women of the potential hazards of such occupational exposure during pregnancy. We now need to learn more about the possible impact of fetal exposure to EDCs on the female reproductive system.