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The use of new field methods of semen analysis in the study of occupational hazards to reproduction: the example of ethylene dibromide.

Ratcliffe JM; Schrader SM; Turner TW; Hornung RW
NIOSH 1986:103-106
A study of semen characteristics as a means of evaluating the reproductive toxicity of ethylene-dibromide (106934) (EDB) in the field was conducted. The study was part of a cross sectional study of workers exposed to EDB in the papaya fumigation industry (SIC- approximately 75 male workers initially approached at six facilities that fumigated papayas with EDB for fruit-fly infestation control and from 43 workers at a sugar processing factory who had no exposure to EDB. Samples were produced at home by workers after at least 2 days of abstinence and brought to the site in coded glass jars. These were analyzed for turbidity, color, liquefaction time, volume, and pH at a newly developed mobile laboratory. Videotapes and slides for assessing viability and morphology were also prepared at the field site for later analysis at a central laboratory. Industrial hygiene sampling data at the facilities indicated 8 hour time weighted average breathing zone exposures of 88 parts per billion (ppb). The NIOSH and OSHA standards for EDB were 45ppb and 20 parts per million, respectively. Mean semen volume and sperm concentrations were nonsignificantly decreased in the EDB exposed workers. Mean sperm counts per ejaculate and percentage of viable sperm were significantly lower in the exposed workers. The overall percentages of sperm with normal morphology were similar in the two groups; however, the exposed workers showed significant increases in the proportion of sperm with tapered heads, absent heads, and abnormal tails. The authors conclude that new techniques of semen analysis using mobile laboratory equipment and fresh semen samples can be used in epidemiological studies of populations exposed to suspect male reproductive toxins.
NIOSH-Author; Epidemiology; Brominated-ethylenes; Fumigants; Agricultural-workers; Spermatogenesis; Reproductive-effects; Reproductive-hazards; Industrial-hygiene; Analytical-methods
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Fiscal Year
Source Name
The Changing Nature of Work and Workforce, Proceedings of the Third Joint US-Finnish Science Symposium, Frankfort, Kentucky, October 22-24, 1986, NIOSH, Cincinnati, Ohio
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division