Environmental mercury exposure, semen quality and reproductive hormones in Greenlandic Inuit and European men: a cross-sectional study

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Several animal studies indicate that mercury is a male reproductive toxicant, but human studies are few and contradictory. We examined semen characteristics and serum levels of reproductive hormones in relation to environmental exposure to mercury. Blood and semen samples were collected from 529 male partners of pregnant women living in Greenland, Poland and Ukraine between May 2002 and February 2004. The median concentration of the total content of mercury in whole blood was 9.2 ng ml(-1) in Greenland (0.2-385.8 ng ml(-1)), 1.0 ng ml(-1) in Poland (0.2-6.4 ng ml(-1)) and 1.0 ng ml(-1) in Ukraine (0.2-4.9 ng ml(-1)). We found a significantly positive association between the blood levels of mercury and serum concentration of inhibin B in men from Greenland (beta=0.074, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.021 to 0.126) and in an analysis including men from all three regions (beta=0.067, 95% CI=0.024 to 0.110). The association may be due to beneficial effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are contained in seafood and fish. No significant association (P>0.05) was found between blood concentrations of mercury and any of the other measured semen characteristics (semen volume, total sperm count, sperm concentration, morphology and motility) and reproductive hormones (free androgen index (FAI), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone and LHxtestosterone) in any region. In conclusion, the findings do not provide evidence that environmental mercury exposure in Greenlandic and European men with median whole blood concentration up to 10 ng ml(-1) has adverse effects on biomarkers of male reproductive health. Asian Journal of Andrology (2013) 15, 97-104; doi:10.1038/aja.2012.121; published online 10 December 2012


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine


  • blood mercury concentration, environmental mercury exposure, male, fertility, reproduction, reproductive hormones, semen characteristics, semen quality
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-104
JournalAsian Journal of Andrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch