A study titled "Sperm Aneuploidy in Faroese Men with Lifetime Exposure to Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Pollutants" and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that teenagers exposed to pesticides among other environmental pollutants later suffer abnormal sperms when older.
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The study was published by researchers from George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of the Faroe Islands, and the Faroese Hospital System.
The study establishes that there is always a link between environmental chemicals and sperm abnormalities and fertility problems, especially if there was exposure during adolescence.
"We need more research to find out how these organochlorine pollutants may be affecting the maturation of the testicles and their function," said lead author Melissa Perry, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Milken Institute SPH. "Exposure to these chemicals in adolescence may lead to reproductive problems years later."
About 90 men living in The Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic were examined for the study, and their sperm and blood samples taken for analysis. The people of the island eat a lot of seafood, including pilot whale meat and blubber, leading to higher-than-average exposures to organochlorine pollutants including polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs and the main metabolite of the insecticide DDT.
Levels of organochlorine pesticides were measured in their blood samples, and a sperm imaging technique showed they had sperm disomy, a situation where the sperm cells have abnormal amounts of chromosomes.
DDT among other organochlorine pesticides were used a lot in the 1960s but now largely prohibited in the US, even though they still remain in use in some tropical countries. The chemicals linger in water and the soil, making people to be exposed by eating fatty fish, dairy, and meat.
"Most people can reduce their exposure to PCBs and DDT by cutting back on foods that are high in animal fats and choosing fish wisely," Perry said.
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"This study, and others like it, suggest that any decisions about putting biologically active chemicals into the environment must be made very carefully as there can be unanticipated consequences down the road," she added.