Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and male reproductive function in young adulthood; a cross-sectional study

Kajsa Ugelvig Petersen, Katia Keglberg Hærvig, Esben Meulengracht Flachs, Jens Peter Bonde, Christian Lindh, Karin Sørig Hougaard, Gunnar Toft, Cecilia Høst Ramlau-Hansen, Sandra Søgaard Tøttenborg


BACKGROUND: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large family of persistent industrial chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties.

OBJECTIVES: To examine biomarkers of reproductive function in young adult males according to current environmental exposure to single and combined PFAS.

METHODS: The study population consisted of young men (n = 1041, age 18-21) from the Fetal Programming of Semen Quality (FEPOS) cohort. These men were recruited from pregnancies included in the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC) between 1996 and 2002. From 2017 to 2019, participants answered an online questionnaire, completed a clinical examination and provided a blood and a semen sample. Exposure to 15 PFAS was measured in plasma. Six compounds were quantified above the limit of detection in at least 80% of the participants. We applied negative binomial regression and weighted quantile sum (WQS) regression models to assess associations between single and combined exposure to PFAS and measures of semen quality, testicular volume and reproductive hormones among the young men.

RESULTS: We found no consistent associations between plasma concentrations of PFAS, semen quality and testicular volume. Higher levels of single and combined PFAS were associated with slightly higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (WQS 4% difference, 95% confidence interval: 0, 9). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was the main contributor to this finding with positive signals also from perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS).

DISCUSSION: We examined exposure to a range of common PFAS in relation to biomarkers of male reproductive function and found an association with higher levels of FSH among young men from the general population in Denmark. Further studies on especially combined exposure to PFAS are needed to expand our understanding of potential endocrine disruption from both legacy and emerging compounds in relation to male reproductive function.

TidsskriftEnvironmental Research
Udgave nummerPt A
Sider (fra-til)113157
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2022


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