Public Release: 

GW researcher and colleagues identify environmental exposure to organochlorines may impact male reproduction

George Washington University Medical Center

WASHINGTON (Jan. 9, 2011) -- Melissa Perry, Sc.D., M.H.S., professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the GW School of Public Health and Health Services and adjunct associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, led an observational study indicating that environmental exposure to organochlorine chemicals, including Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and p,p'-DDE (the main metabolite of the insecticide DDT) can affect male reproduction. The research was published online on Dec. 21, 2011 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers studied 192 men who were part of couples that were sub-fertile, to see if the men with higher levels of organochlorines in their blood showed evidence of increased rates of sperm abnormalities. They looked for sperm disomy, which occurs when sperm cells have an abnormal number of chromosomes. While all men have a certain number of sperm with such abnormalities, researchers found that men with higher levels of DDE and PCBs had significantly higher rates of sperm abnormalities.

"This research adds to the already existing body of evidence suggesting that environmental exposure to certain chemicals can affect male fertility and reproduction. We need to further understand the mechanisms through which these chemicals impact sperm," said Dr. Perry. "While we cannot avoid chemicals that already persist in the environment, it is imperative that decisions about putting biologically active chemicals into the environment need to be made very carefully, because there can be unanticipated consequences down the road."

The researchers used a new sperm imaging methodology developed by Dr. Perry and colleagues to detect the chromosomal abnormalities, which allowed them to study a larger sampling of individuals than previous studies.

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To view the 'Ahead of Print' version of this research paper on the Environmental Health Perspectives Web site, visit: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1104017

About the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services:

Established in July 1997, the School of Public Health and Health Services brought together three longstanding university programs in the schools of medicine, business, and education that we have since expanded substantially. Today, more than 1,100 students from nearly every U.S. state and more than 40 nations pursue undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level degrees in public health. Our student body is one of the most ethnically diverse among the nation's private schools of public health. http://sphhs.gwumc.edu/

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