As a follow-up to the pilot study of semen quality of soldiers with various military assignments a larger, more complete study was conducted. Soldiers were recruited at Fort Hood, Texas. Thirty-three men were exposed to radar as part of their duty assignment in the Signal Corps, 57 men were involved with firing the 155 mm howitzer (potential lead exposure), and 103 soldiers had neither lead nor radar exposure and served as the comparison control group. Both serum and urinary follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone and serum, salivary, and urine testosterone levels were determined in all men. A complete semen analysis was conducted on each soldier. For statistical analysis, the primary study variables were: sperm concentration, sperm/ejaculate, semen volume, percent normal morphology, percent motile, percent viable (both vital stain and hypoosmotic swelling), curvilinear velocity, straight-line velocity, linearity, sperm head length, width, area, and perimeter. Variables were adjusted for significant confounders (e.g., abstinence, sample age, race). No statistical differences (P < 0.05) were observed in any measurement. While these results are in agreement with two previous studies assessing soldiers firing the 155-mm howitzer, they contradict our previous report indicating that radar exposure caused a significant decrease in sperm numbers. A possible explanation is that the radar exposure in this study was that used in Signal Corps operations while the men in the previous study were using different radar as part of military intelligence operations. The data presented here in men firing the 155-mm howitzer combined with the results from the previous studies confirms that there are no deficits in semen quality in these men. The contradiction between the results of the radar exposure studies indicates that more data are needed to evaluate the relationship of military radar and male reproductive health.
Steven M. Schrader, Ph.D., NIOSH, MS-C23, 46776 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226