Common Compounds Impairing Semen Quality

In Denmark, young men were studied to examine the lessening quality of semen. Joensen et al. (2009) tested for perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), which are man-made degradation products of polyfluorinated compounds used in industrial and consumer manufactured goods. Such acids are endocrine disruptors which have many damaging affects on the human body by imitating necessary hormones. The scientists used liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS) with electrospray ionization which analyzes mass and physical separation of a complex mixture of chemicals. The ten acids tested were perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorooctane sulfonamide (PFOSA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnA), perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoA), and perfluorotridecanoic acid (PFTrA). Joensen et al. discovered that high PFAA levels related to fewer normal sperm and lower sperm concentration. Leah Kahn
Joensen, U., Bossy, R., Lifers, H., Jensen, A. A., Skakkebæk, N. (2009). Do Perfluoroalkyl Compounds Impair Human Semen Quality? Environmental Health Perspectives 117, 923–927.

These compounds are found in common household items such as food packaging, microwave popcorn, waterproof fabric and clothing, and non-stick cookware like Teflon. They are added to materials to make stain protection treatments, flame retardants, and wire coatings, and once in the body, the compounds settle in organs and tissue for several years. PFOA, PFOS, and PFHxS have half-lives in humans of 3.8, 5.4, and 8.5 years, respectively. High serum concentrations of PFAAs are significantly associated with reduced normal spermatozoa — the fully developed sperm cell. Sperm concentration, the number of individual sperm in ejaculate also decreased in men with more PFAA exposure. Total sperm count, sperm concentration multiplied by the volume, was also analyzed and found to be lower. Sperm motility also decreased to a level that less than 60% of observed sperm had forward movement. All four semen analyses must be healthy and normal in order to successfully reproduce, and they were not.

Such analyses were conducted on 105 men with the average age of 19.0 years. Out of the men selected, 53 had high testosterone and 52 had low testosterone. Thawed serum samples were analyzed for levels of testosterone, estradiol (estrogen), sex hormone binding globulin (a protein), luteinizing hormone which is a testosterone producer, follicle-stimulating hormone for regulating reproductive processes and inhibin B (inhibits certain hormones). Some of the analyses had to be adjusted for the effect of ejaculation abstinence period. From these analyses it was found that the three highest levels of concentration were PFOA, PFOS and PFHxS so they were the only compounds included in the final regression analyses.

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