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Airborne Persistent Organic Pollutants and Male Reproductive Health

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Volume: 14 | Issue: 4 | Pages: 1292-1298
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2013.03.0066
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Ping-Chi Hsu 1, Yueliang Leon Guo2, Derek R. Smith3, Yu-Sheng Lin4, Li-Ho Tseng5, Chia-Wei Lee1, Jenq-Renn Chen1

  • 1 Department of Safety, Health and Environmental Engineering, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • 2 Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, National Taiwan University and NTU Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 3 School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Ourimbah 2258, Australia
  • 4 Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA
  • 5 Department of Environmental science and Occupational Safety and Hygiene, Tajen University, Pingtung, Taiwan


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemicals that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food chain, and exhibit toxic effects that threaten the health of humans and animals alike. The potential influence of POP-related air pollution on male reproductive outcomes has attracted increasing interest in the scientific community and among policymakers and the public. Therefore, epidemiological studies on fertility should examine the impact of chronic exposure to POPs via inhalation. The objective of this review is to present and discuss the available evidence linking the exposure to airborne POPs to male reproductive health problems. This study focuses on the air concentrations, biomarkers, and potential effects on the male reproductive health of two classes of POPs: the industrial polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Although the association between atmospheric pollutants and male reproductive health has been extensively investigated, particularly in relation to semen quality and endocrine outcomes, the molecular mechanisms of action, the adverse effects, and the dose-response relationships for many of these chemicals remain poorly understood. No systematic screening of common chemicals for negative endocrine effects is currently underway, and many questions remain regarding the impact on male reproductive health of exposures to these POPs. This review presents the air concentrations, biomarkers, and adverse male reproductive effects of PCBs and PBDEs pollutants. Given the dearth of information on this topic in the literature, studies are clearly needed to assess how pre- and post-natal exposure to airborne PCBs and PBDEs affects the male reproductive system. Future studies must also identify aerosols and airborne POPs that have a significant impact on male reproductive health and the pathways responsible for those effects.


Air pollution Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) Male reproduction Semen quality

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