Introduction There is an increase in problems of the reproductive system in human males. This could be due to lifestyle factors, and chemical exposure in the work environment. Occupational activities involve constant exposure to toxic agents and may have a detrimental effect on human reproduction. This study aimed at assessing the semen quality among exposed workers to lead and cadmium.
Methods According to the inclusion criteria (at least 2 years of work exposure, age 20–45, non-smokers) 21 male workers (exposed group) in a welding unit at a shipbuilding facility in Ismailia Egypt and 42 office workers (control group) with the same criteria were compared. Personal, medical, reproductive and occupational histories were taken. Blood lead and cadmium concentrations were determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometer with Zeeman background correction (Perkin Elmer). Analysis of semen samples was performed in accordance with World Health Organisation criteria. P-value less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant in data analysis.
Results The blood level of lead and cadmium for the welding workers was 45.75±9.78 µg/dl and 1.68±1.60, respectively, which was significantly higher than the control group 12.65±3.78 and 0.15±0.22 (p<0.001). Sperm counts of welding workers were 31.12±22.97 millions/ml lower than those of the control group were 50.80±39.56 millions/ml (p=0.016) and also sperm motility was decreased in exposed workers compared to controls (p=0.003). The sperm motility showed a negative correlation with blood lead content in workers. Blood concentration correlated with the number of years of exposure to welding.
Conclusion This study shows that exposure to lead and cadmium may affect semen profile in male welding workers. Further studies are need to control for other potential confounding factors, and environmental assessment should be done to asses exposure pathways and concentration.