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Reproductive Hormone Profile Among Pesticide Factory Workers

Padungtod, Chantana MD, DrPH; Lasley, Bill L. PhD; Christiani, David C. MD, MPH, MS; Ryan, Louise M. PhD; Xu, Xiping MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: December 1998 - Volume 40 - Issue 12 - p 1038-1047
Original Articles

Serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and testosterone levels, as well as urinary levels of FSH, LH, and E1C, a metabolite of testosterone, were measured to investigate the adverse reproductive effects of organophosphate pesticides among Chinese factory workers who were occupationally exposed to ethylparathion and methamidophos. Thirty-four exposed workers were randomly chosen and recruited from a large pesticide factory, and 44 unexposed workers were selected from a nearby textile factory. A quantitative pesticide exposure assessment was performed among a subset of the exposed and unexposed workers. Information on potential confounders was collected in an interview. A single blood sample was collected at the end of a work shift, when each subject also donated a semen sample. Three first-voided urine samples were collected from each worker on 3 consecutive days. Urinary p-nitrophenol level at 1 hour after the work shift correlated with serum (r = 0.71, P < 0.01) and urinary (r = 0.51, P = 0.04) FSH levels. Stratifying by the subjects' exposure status, we found a significant negative correlation among the exposed group between urinary FSH level and sperm count (r = -0.61, P < 0.01) and between urinary FSH level and sperm concentration (r = -0.53, P = 0.03). Pesticide exposure alone was significantly associated with serum LH level (β [coefficient of exposure effect] = 0.79; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.42, 1.16) but not with serum FSH or testosterone or with any urinary hormone levels. With adjustment for age, rotating shift work, current cigarette smoking, and current alcohol consumption, exposure significantly increased the serum LH level by 1.1 mIU/mL (95% CI = 0.34, 1.82). Meanwhile, the serum FSH level was slightly elevated (β [coefficient of exposure effect] = 1.38; 95% CI = -0.09, 2.85) and the serum testosterone level was decreased (β = -55.13; 95% CI = -147.24, 37) with increased pesticide exposure. Age and rotating shift work appeared to act as confounders. We conclude that organophosphate pesticides have a small effect on male reproductive hormones, suggestive of a secondary hormonal disturbance after testicular damage.

From the Occupational Health Program (Dr Padungtod, Dr Christiani, Dr Xu), the Department of Biostatistics (Dr Ryan), and the Program for Population Genetics (Dr Xu), Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.; the Institute of Toxicology and Environmental Health, University of California, Davis, Calif. (Dr Lasley); Massachussetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. (Dr Christiani); the Division of Biostatistics, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass. (Dr Ryan); and the Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass. (Dr Xu).

Address correspondence to: Xiping Xu, MD, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, FXB-101, Boston, MA 02115.

© Williams & Wilkins 1998. All Rights Reserved.