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Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction

Last Updated: September 24, 2009.

European study finds more evidence in areas where more men have problems.

THURSDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of persistent environmental chemicals are found in the breast milk of women in countries with high rates of male reproductive problems, say European researchers.

The chemicals, called environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are commonly found in fatty foods, paints, plasticizers, pesticides and byproducts of industrial processes. Research has shown an association between EDCs and male reproductive problems, including poor semen quality and congenital genital abnormalities.

In the new study, published online Thursday in the International Journal of Andrology, the researchers measured levels of 121 chemicals in 68 samples of breast milk from women in Denmark and Finland. Denmark has a high rate of male reproductive problems, and Finland has a low rate, according to the study.

"We were very surprised to find that some EDC levels, including some dioxins, PCBs and some pesticides, were significantly higher in Denmark than in Finland," Niels Skakkebaek, a senior member of the research team, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "Our findings reinforce the view that environmental exposure to EDCs may explain some of the temporal and between-country differences in incidence of male reproductive disorders."

However, Skakkebaek added that, despite the findings, he would "strongly urge women, including Danish women, to continue breastfeeding, which has many beneficial effects for the child."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has more about the environment and reproductive health.

SOURCE: Wiley-Blackwell, news release, Sept. 24, 2009


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