Few studies have addressed the effects of mixed, low-level exposures to complex mixtures on a man's reproductive potential. In this prospective study, each subject was evaluated before first exposure and at 15 and 30 weeks after exposures had begun. A total of 50 men working on aircraft maintenance at an Air Force installation were included in the study. In addition, eight unexposed men were concurrently sampled. Industrial hygiene (IH) sampling and expired breath samples were collected for jet fuel as measured by total napthas, benzene/a component of jet fuel, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, methyl ethyl ketone, xylenes, toluene, and methylene chloride. Sperm production, structure, and function (sperm concentration, sperm motion, viability, morphology, morphometrics, and stability of sperm chromatin) were evaluated. Exposures were low. All mean IH measures were below 6 ppm, which is less than 10% of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for all chemicals except benzene. Sheet metal workers had the highest mean breath levels for both total solvents (24 ppb) and fuels (28.3 ppb). For most sperm measures, mean values remained in the normal range throughout the 30 weeks of exposure. When jobs were analyzed by exposure groups, some adverse changes were observed. The paint shop group had a significant decline in motility of 19.5% at 30 weeks. Internal dose measures, however, did not show a significant association with spermatogenic changes.
Dr. Grace K. Lemasters, Professor and Director, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Kettering Laboratories, Room G-8, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 670056, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056