Objectives The objective of this literature review was to examine and present evidence on male reproductive health effects of hormonally active conventional agricultural pesticides used in South Africa in order evaluate the need for research in this area especially in the Western Cape, a major agricultural area in the country.
Methods The literature review included electronic and paper sources of information using PubMED/MEDLINE, EBSCO, Google Scholar and The Cochrane Library as well as theses through the University of Cape Town Medical Library. Key words for the searches included pesticides, male reproduction, endocrine disruption, farm workers, farm residents and rural residents. Data from both animal studies and epidemiological studies including all study designs and countries were considered.
Results The review indentified a number (n = 11) of contemporary-use agricultural pesticides that have been shown to induce in vitro endocrine activity and/or have been shown to affect gonadotrophin and steroid hormone release as well as male reproductive development in animals or humans. These pesticides include chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, endosulfan, deltamethrin, dichlorvos, DNOC, fenvelerate, glyphosate, iprodione, parathion and procloraz. Rural residents in the Western Cape especially those living on farms including children are highly exposed occupationally and non-occupationally to pesticides through a number of routes. There are, however, few epidemiological studies that have investigated male reproductive health effects in humans consequent to environmental exposure to conventional agricultural pesticides and only two in South Africa. There are no longitudinal studies.
Conclusions More epidemiological studies, especially longitudinal investigations of specific pesticides in highly exposed workers and residents especially boys in settings such as the Western Cape in South Africa are required.