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Fertility and exposure to solvents among families in the Agricultural Health Study
  1. M Sallmén1,
  2. D D Baird1,
  3. J A Hoppin1,
  4. A Blair2,
  5. D P Sandler1
  1. 1Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Human Health Services, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Human Health Services, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Sallmén
 Centre of Expertise for Health and Work Ability, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 aA, FI-00250, Helsinki, Finland; Markku.Sallmen{at}


Background: Several studies have reported associations between solvent exposure and reduced female fertility, but the evidence is inconclusive for male fertility.

Objectives: To investigate the impact of solvent exposure on subfertility among families of male licensed pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study cohort.

Methods: The couples enrolled between 1993 and 1997. Cross-sectional questionnaire information on work tasks was used to assess exposure to solvents. The data were limited to couples (wife aged less than 40 years) with an attempt at pregnancy in the last four years (n = 2112).

Results: Twenty eight per cent of the couples were defined as subfertile (not conceiving a pregnancy after at least 12 months of unprotected intercourse, regardless of whether or not a pregnancy ultimately occurred). Adjusted subfertility odds ratios (OR) for exposure to solvents were calculated with logistic regression. Female (OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.75) and male exposure to solvents (OR 1.21 (95% CI 0.93 to 1.57) for monthly exposure and 1.40 (95% CI 0.97 to 2.03) for daily or weekly exposure) were associated with subfertility. In farming, spouses may share or exchange jobs. To account for potential dual exposure, variables for parental exposure (either parent exposed or both parents exposed) were also defined. Both were strongly associated with subfertility (OR 1.62 (95% CI 1.20 to 2.17) and OR 2.10 (95% CI 1.22 to 3.60), respectively).

Conclusions: Solvents may impair fertility of either gender, though the evidence for female effects is stronger than for male effects.

  • agriculture
  • female exposure
  • male exposure
  • solvent exposure
  • subfertility

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  • Published Online First 12 May 2006

  • Competing interests: none