Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


  Guo, YL, PC Hsu, CC Hsu and GH Lambert. 2000. Semen quality after prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and dibenzofurans. The Lancet 356:1240-1241

One of the most famous PCB contamination incidents took place in central Taiwan in 1979 when cooking oil was contaminated by PCBs and polychlorinated dibenzofurans. Over 2000 Taiwanese ingested contaminated oil in this incident. Ever since, scientists have studied the children born to mothers who were exposed during this tragedy.

Previous studies had shown that children born to mothers after the event had impaired cognitive development, intrauterine growth retardation, dysmorphic and hyperpigmented skin and nails.

In this study, Guo et al. report that prenatally exposed boys have sperm with abnormal morphology, reduced motility and reduced strength. These results are consistent with studies of animals exposed in the womb to PCBs.

Guo et al. compared sperm characteristics of 12 men contaminated in the womb with 48 men of matched demographics with no unusual chemical exposure.

Semen volume and sperm count were not different comparing exposed and unexposed men. [This is not surprising... some PCBs increase sperm count in laboratory experiments...More...]

In contrast, the proportion of sperm with normal morphology and the percentage of motile sperm were reduced in exposed men, as was the strength of the sperm when tested for its ability to penetrate hamster oocytes for two hours (Fig 1).

  Figure 1. The three pairs of columns compare aspects of the sperm of men exposed in the womb with unexposed counterparts.

Exposed men had a higher percentage of sperm with abnormal morphology.

Exposed men had a lower percentage of sperm that were motile.

Exposed men's sperm were less likely to penetrate hamster oocytes in a standard 2-hr test.

Adapted from Guo et al. 2000.









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