Blood and seminal plasma mercury levels and predatory fish intake in relation to low semen quality.


Graduate Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Taiwan University, 71 Chou-Shan Rd., Taipei, 106, Taiwan. [Email]


Declining human sperm quality has been demonstrated in several recent studies. Age, environmental factors, and nutritional factors can affect semen quality. Mercury (Hg) is considered a male reproductive toxicant. Animal studies indicated that exposure to Hg can cause DNA damage, sperm dysfunction, and decreased sperm motility. Some previous studies also revealed that blood Hg levels in infertile or subfertile males were higher than those in normal males. In this study, we recruited 84 male participants from a reproductive medical center and investigated the Hg, lead, and selenium levels in blood and seminal plasma. Participants were divided into two groups, low- and high-quality semen groups, according to the World Health Organization reference values for human semen characteristics. The distribution of blood reproductive hormones and information on participants' lifestyle and medical history were collected from structured questionnaires. Average Hg levels in blood were 9.3±5.9 versus 8.9±5.9 and in seminal plasma were 1.26±0.61 versus 1.05±0.52 μg/L in the low- and high-quality semen groups, respectively. There was a dose-dependent relationship between blood Hg levels and normal sperm morphology (p=0.02). Participants with predatory fish intake and high blood Hg level had lower sperm with a normal morphology. Therefore, predatory fish intake may be a critical risk factor for elevated Hg levels in males and cause low semen quality.


Mercury,Predatory fish,Semen quality,Sperm morphology,