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Occupational Hazards for the Male Reproductive System

The etiology of male infertilities is largely undetermined, and our knowledge of exogenous factors affecting the male reproductive system is still limited. In particular, the role of specific environmental and occupational factors is incompletely elucidated. Various occupational (physical and chemical) agents have been shown to affect male reproductive functions in animals, but large differences in reproductive function and/or xenobiotic handling between species limit extrapolation to humans. When available, human data are often conflicting and, except in a few instances, usually refer to broad and heterogenous occupational categories or to groups of agents (e.g., solvents). It is often difficult to elucidate the role of a single agent because occupational exposure conditions are often complex and various confounding factors related to lifestyle (smoking, alcohol, and diet) or socioeconomic state may also affect sperm quality, fertility, or pregnancy outcomes.The objective of this work is to summarize the main epidemiological and, where relevant, experimental findings pertaining to agents (physical and chemical) encountered in the occupational environment that might affect the male reproductive system (sperm count, motility and morphology, libido, and fertility) and/or related pregnancy outcomes (spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, low birth weight, and birth defects and childhood malignancy in offspring). Some methodological issues related to research on the reproductive effects of toxicants are also discussed briefly.

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