Objectives The study aimed to assess whether exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) alter sperm quality of coke-oven workers.
Methods Personal breathing zone, urine, and semen samples were collected from nonsmoking workers at top-side ovens (high exposure, N = 16) and side-ovens (low exposure, N = 20), and administrative staff members serving as the control group (N = 15). PAH concentrations were analysed by a gas chromatography quadruple spectrometer. Routine semen was analysed by procedures in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines. Urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP) was analysed by HPLC with a fluorescence detector.
Results ANOVA analysis showed a significant difference in urinary 1-OHP levels (14.7 ± 12.9, 4 ± 4.3, 0.3 ± 0.2 g/g creatinine respectively, p = 0.02) between the exposed groups and the control. Mean concentrations of 16 species of PAHs significantly differed among the three groups (Total PAHs = 41620.3 ± 17697.6 ng/m3, 19887.6 ± 1378.1 ng/m3, 57.0 ± 18.1ng/m3, p < 0.0001; Benzo (g,h,i)perylene = 3553.9 ± 1250.7 ng/m3, 3001.9 ± 1367.7 ng/m3, 2.0 ± 1.5 ng/m3, p < 0.0001, p = 0.067). Asthenospermia was found more frequently in the high exposure group as compared to the control (37.5% and 13.3%, respectively, p < 0.01). The exposed groups had lower percentages of normal morphology as compared with the control group (14.5 ± 3.4%, 15.0 ± 3.1%, 34.5 ± 2.6% p < 0.01). Multiple regression analysis showed that PAH species positively correlated with abnormality of morphology and motility of sperm.
Conclusion Abnormal morphology of sperm was associated with PAH concentrations, especially those with heavy molecular weights, e.g. benzo (g,h,i)perylene and benzo (k)fluoranthene.
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