Associations of in Utero Exposure to Perfluorinated Alkyl Acids with Human Semen Quality and Reproductive Hormones in Adult Men

Anne Vested, Cecilia Høst Ramlau-Hansen, Sjurdur Frodi Olsen, Jens Peter Bonde, Susanne Lund Kristensen, Thorhallur Ingi Halldorsson, Georg Becher, Line Småstuen Haug, Emil Hagen Ernst, Gunnar Toft

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Background: Perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs), persistent chemicals with unique water-, dirt-, and oil-repellent properties, are suspected of having endocrine-disrupting activity. The PFAA compounds perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are found globally in humans; because they readily cross the placental barrier, in utero exposure may be a cause for concern.

Objectives: We investigated whether in utero exposure to PFOA and PFOS affects semen quality, testicular volume, and reproductive hormone levels.

Methods: We recruited 169 male offspring (19–21 years of age) from a pregnancy cohort established in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1988–1989, corresponding to 37.6% of the eligible sons. Each man provided a semen sample and a blood sample. Semen samples were analyzed for sperm concentration, total sperm count, motility, and morphology, and blood samples were used to measure reproductive hormones. As a proxy for in utero exposure, PFOA and PFOS were measured in maternal blood samples from pregnancy week 30.

Results: Multivariable linear regression analysis suggested that in utero exposure to PFOA was associated with lower adjusted sperm concentration (ptrend = 0.01) and total sperm count (ptrend = 0.001) and with higher adjusted levels of luteinizing hormone (ptrend = 0.03) and follicle-stimulating hormone (ptrend = 0.01). PFOS did not appear to be associated with any of the outcomes assessed, before or after adjustment.

Conclusions: The results suggest that in utero exposure to PFOA may affect adult human male semen quality and reproductive hormone levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-458
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • PFOA
  • PFOS
  • prenatal exposure
  • reproductive hormones
  • semen quality
  • adult men


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