Environmental and occupational pesticide exposure and human sperm parameters: A systematic review

Sheena E. Martenies, Melissa J. Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Of continuing concern are the associations between environmental or occupational exposures to pesticides and semen quality parameters. Prior research has indicated that there may be associations between exposure to pesticides of a variety of classes and decreased sperm health. The intent of this review was to summarize the most recent evidence related to pesticide exposures and commonly used semen quality parameters, including concentration, motility and morphology. The recent literature was searched for studies published between January 2007 and August 2012 that focused on environmental or occupational pesticide exposures. Included in the review are 17 studies, 15 of which reported significant associations between exposure to pesticides and semen quality indicators. Two studies also investigated the roles genetic polymorphisms may play in the strength or directions of these associations. Specific pesticides targeted for study included dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), and abamectin. Pyrethroids and organophosphates were analyzed as classes of pesticides rather than as individual compounds, primarily due to the limitations of exposure assessment techniques. Overall, a majority of the studies reported significant associations between pesticide exposure and sperm parameters. A decrease in sperm concentration was the most commonly reported finding among all of the pesticide classes investigated. Decreased motility was also associated with exposures to each of the pesticide classes, although these findings were less frequent across studies. An association between pesticide exposure and sperm morphology was less clear, with only two studies reporting an association. The evidence presented in this review continues to support the hypothesis that exposures to pesticides at environmentally or occupationally relevant levels may be associated with decreased sperm health. Future work in this area should focus on associations between specific pesticides or metabolic products and sperm quality parameters. Analysis of effects of varying genetic characteristics, especially in genes related to pesticide metabolism, also needs further attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
StatePublished - May 10 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Agrochemicals
  • Environmental health
  • Occupational health
  • Pesticides
  • Semen quality
  • Sperm health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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