Toxic Exposures and Fertility

Recently, we received a request to look closer into the effects of chemical contamination exposures and fertility. Two chemicals of note, TCE and PFOS, were mentioned. We found some interesting studies/research on both (some provided by readers) that documents some of the threats of chemical exposure to fertility. More importantly, they also bear out a couple of already widely held beliefs about the transferability of these toxins from generation to generation.

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In the following research from the Cleveland Clinic’s Reproductive Research Center (Environment and Male Fertility), the authors discuss various lifestyle and environmental factors that impact fertility. Here are a few excerpts of note:

RE: Maternal & In Utero Exposures

Not only male infertility can be caused during adulthood, but also it can be a result of maternal and pre-pubertal toxic exposure.

“Early damage may impair testicular development in the male fetus as well as during infancy and these impacts may manifest themselves in adulthood.”

“Outside influences on hormone regulation can have dramatic effects.”

“Maternal lifestyle that involves exposure to environmental chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties, especially anti-androgenic activity, can influence testicular development and spermatogenesis in the adult offspring.”

Toxins may still be passed on to an infant via breastfeeding.

It is also likely that DNA damage can transfer from parents to offspring (see: Civilian Exposure – Can Contamination Pose Multi-Generational Concerns Via DNA Damage?). In fact, the chapter points out specifically that fertility issues can be caused by environmental factors such as:

  1. Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
  2. Chemicals
  3. Plastics
  4. Heavy metals

Here’s what the VA will likely fall back on in a claim situation:

“Maternal smoking and obesity are two more factors that reduce sperm counts in developing male offspring.”

The VA loves confounding factors such as obesity and smoking. They primarily cite one or both of these in every single claim they rebuff from someone exposed to military base contamination. Beware.

Mature Male Exposures:

“There are consistent indications that pesticides like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known as DDT, affect sperm counts in humans.15 Also, herbicides such as lindane, methoxychlor, and dioxin-TCDD have all been linked with testicular oxidative stress and decreased sperm counts.16,17

Chemicals, Toxins and Endocrine Active Compounds:

“Environmental chemicals and toxins have the potential to negatively affect fertility. Some of these chemicals have estrogenic properties and thus are considered toxic because they affect the normal functioning state of the endocrine system. Such compounds can affect LH stimulated Leydig cells which influence androgen secretion and thus interfere with the proper endocrine regulation of spermatogenesis.”


“As societies increasingly introduce new chemical and potentially toxic substances into daily life, adverse effects may be amplified from one generation to the next.”

Exposure to certain toxins can lead to DNA damage, oxidative stress, and a host of other issues. Whether it occurred during gestation, the pre-pubertal age, or during adulthood, such exposure can affect fertility.

Additional Notes on PFOS/PFOA:

PFOS/PFOA exposure could also impact fertility – see this testimony/report from New York. In the report, it is revealed that exposure to PFOA causes issues that:

include causation  of kidney and testicular cancer, and associations with prostate and ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. PFOA also is associated with numerous non-cancer effects, including effects on cholesterol, endocrine disruption, thyroid disease, immunotoxicity (including ulcerative colitis), and reproductive effects.


Other Relevant Links and Resources:

  • Rizk, David, Stefan du Plessis, and Ashok Agarwal. “Environment and Male Fertility”
    • 15. Jurewicz J, Hanke W, Radwan M, Bonde JP. Environmental factors and semen quality. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health 2009;22(4):305-29.
    • 16. Chitra KC, Sujatha R, Latchoumycandane C, Mathur PP. Effect of lindane on antioxidant enzymes in epididymis and epididymal sperm of adult rats. Asian Journal of Andrology 2001;3(3):205-8.
    • 17. Latchoumycandane C, Mathur PP. Induction of oxidative stress in the rat testis after short-term exposure to the organochlorine pesticide methoxychlor. Archives of Toxicology 2002;76(12):692-8.
  • The Atlantic: The Toxins that Threaten Our Brains

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Civilian Exposure

Civilian Exposure is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization/public charity working to Build Awareness, Accountability and Assistance for Civilians Exposed to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and all citizens exposed to any toxic contamination aboard all U.S. military installations. The effort continues to inform civilian employees and others affected by contamination to receive both the guidance and the justice they deserve.

About the Founder
A 20-year veteran of media, marketing, non-profits and entrepreneurship, Gavin P. Smith leads Civilian Exposure, a non-profit assisting civilians and veterans exposed to U.S. military contamination; the Keta Foundation, a collaborative foundation dedicated to mitigating modern slavery through economic improvement projects in Africa; and Gavin Consulting, a network of virtual experts serving global clients; He is also a former member of the CDC/ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel. Mr. Smith holds a Master of Global Management with distinction (Beta Gamma Sigma) from Thunderbird School of Global Management, an MBA from The College of William & Mary Mason School of Business and a BA in History from Wake Forest University.

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