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Background: Concern persists over endocrine-disrupting effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on human growth and sexual maturation. Potential effects of toxicant exposures on testosterone levels during puberty are not well characterized.

Objectives: In this study we evaluated the relationship between toxicants [polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p´-DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and lead] and testosterone levels among 127 Akwesasne Mohawk males 10 to < 17 years of age with documented toxicant exposures.

Methods: Data were collected between February 1996 and January 2000. Fasting blood specimens were collected before breakfast by trained Akwesasne Mohawk staff. Multivariable regression models were used to estimates associations between toxicants and serum testosterone, adjusted for other toxicants, Tanner stage, and potential confounders.

Results: The sum of 16 PCB congeners (Σ16PCBs) that were detected in ≥ 50% of the population was significantly and negatively associated with serum testosterone levels, such that a 10% change in exposure was associated with a 5.6% decrease in testosterone (95% CI: –10.8, –0.5%). Of the 16 congeners, the more persistent ones (Σ8PerPCBs) were related to testosterone, whereas the less persistent ones, possibly reflecting more recent exposure, were not. When PCB congeners were subgrouped, the association was significant for the sum of eight more persistent PCBs (5.7% decrease; 95% CI: –11, –0.4%), and stronger than the sum of six less persistent congeners (3.1% decrease; 95% CI: –7.2, 0.9%). p,p´-DDE was positively but not significantly associated with serum testosterone (5.2% increase with a 10% increase in exposure; 95% CI: –0.5, 10.9%). Neither lead nor HCB was significantly associated with testosterone levels.

Conclusions: Exposure to PCBs, particularly the more highly persistent congeners, may negatively influence testosterone levels among adolescent males. The positive relationship between p,p´-DDE and testosterone indicates that not all POPs act similarly.


Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives.

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