Workplace Chemicals Drop Sperm Count

Medically Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 13, 2001 -- Experts have long felt that exposure to toxic chemicals would likely lead to low sperm counts and infertility in men, but medical researchers have been unable to pinpoint which workplace chemicals, if any, seem to cause the problem -- at least until now.

Doctors from Canada found that exposure to organic solvents in jobs such as painters and decorators, printers, laundry and dry cleaning workers, shipbuilders, and repair workers can, in fact, cause the sperm count to fall.

The study, which appears in the most recent issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, shows that among over 1,200 men, those with exposure to moderate levels of solvents were twice as likely to have a low sperm count. And men exposed to high levels of solvents were 3-4 times more likely to see a large drop in their sperm count.

The researchers found that painters and decorators, builders, and printers were most likely to have low sperm counts associated with exposure to organic solvents.

The next step, the researchers say, is to find exactly which chemicals in these solvents seem to be causing the damage. And in the meantime, they suggest that exposure to these chemicals be kept to a minimum in order to reduce any potentially damaging effects on sperm.