Perfluorochemicals and human semen quality: The LIFE study

Germaine M. Buck Louis, Zhen Chen, Enrique F. Schisterman, Sungduk Kim, Anne M. Sweeney, Rajeshwari Sundaram, Courtney D. Lynch, Robert E. Gore-Langton, Dana Boyd Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: The relation between persistent environmental chemicals and semen quality is evolving, although limited data exist for men recruited from general populations.

Objectives: We examined the relation between perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and semen quality among 501 male partners of couples planning pregnancy.

Methods: Using population-based sampling strategies, we recruited 501 couples discontinuing contraception from two U.S. geographic regions from 2005 through 2009. Baseline interviews and anthropometric assessments were conducted, followed by blood collection for the quantification of seven serum PFCs (perfluorosulfonates, perfluorocarboxylates, and perfluoro sulfonamides) using tandem mass spectrometry. Men collected a baseline semen sample and another approximately 1 month later. Semen samples were shipped with freezer packs, and analyses were performed on the day after collection. We used linear regression to estimate the difference in each semen parameter associated with a one unit increase in the natural log-transformed PFC concentration after adjusting for confounders and modeling repeated semen samples. Sensitivity analyses included optimal Box-Cox transformation of semen quality end points.

Results: Six PFCs [2-(N-methyl-perfluorooctane sulfonamido) acetate (Me-PFOSA-AcOH), perfluoro decanoate (PFDeA), perfluoro nonanoate (PFNA), perfluorooctane sulfonamide (PFOSA), perfluoro octane sulfonate (PFOS), and perfluoro octanoic acid (PFOA)] were associated with 17 semen quality end points before Box-Cox transformation. PFOSA was associated with smaller sperm head area and perimeter, a lower percentage of DNA stainability, and a higher percentage of bicephalic and immature sperm. PFDeA, PFNA, PFOA, and PFOS were associated with a lower percentage of sperm with coiled tails.

Conclusions: Select PFCs were associated with certain semen end points, with the most significant associations observed for PFOSA but with results in varying directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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