Developing improved strategies to determine male reproductive risk from environmental toxins


A regulatory body such as the Environmental Protection Agency has responsibility to determine safe exposure levels for many chemicals. It is important that evaluation procedures incorporate measures suitable to detect a wide range of potential effects from those chemicals. Since the cost of testing each chemical is large, it is also important that test protocols be designed to produce the needed information efficiently. Many chemical agents, as well as physical agents (e.g., radiation), are capable of causing adverse effects on the reproductive systems. The reproductive systems are among the most sensitive to toxic insult, and protection of reproductive capability is of substantial concern generally. Therefore, it is important that effective methods be developed and applied for detection of reproductive effects and protection of reproductive capability. Included should be effects on the male, female (nonpregnant and pregnant), and developing young. In the regulation of chemicals for protection of humans against potential toxicity, adequate data on the effects of human exposures are seldom available. It is necessary then to use data from other species. Species used most frequently are rodents, rabbits, dogs and subhuman primates. Occasionally, data from a farm species are considered, as with ethylene dibromide (1). More important, knowledge gained from research with farm species is being applied in the design of improved protocols to detect health effects that should be considered adverse. Included are important contributions in the development of new evaluation tests, improved experimental design and in furthering understanding of reproductive biology in general. This paper addresses several testing and risk assessment issues in male reproductive toxicology that form the basis for some of our research. These issues are presented in the context of our work. Attention is focused on evaluating and improving the utility of fertility testing, quantification of sperm production rates and particularly on experimental design factors that are important in improving reliability in detecting adverse effects.

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