Axis 3, Team 9 | Environmental exposure and male and female fertility levels

This research program aims to further our understanding of the links between environmental or occupational exposure and fertility.

  1. Context
  2. Chemical environmental exposure and ovarian reserve
  3. Occupational exposure and male fertility
- - Environmental exposure and male and female fertility levels - © Pixabay

Context

Around 15% of couples see a doctor over infertility problems. There are many ways in which people can be exposed to chemical and physical agents in the environment, and some of these may adversely affect fertility. This research program aims to further our understanding of the links between environmental or occupational exposure and fertility.
 

Chemical environmental exposure and ovarian reserve

The premature decline of the ovarian reserve is one of the main causes of infertility in women. Few studies have been devoted to the link between this decline and exposure to chemical agents, in particular persistent endocrine disruptors or organic solvents. We implemented a case-control study in 2016, called AROPE, by recruiting women in four fertility treatment centers in Brittany and the Pays de Loire region. The cases were women with a low ovarian reserve. The controls were women found to have a completely normal ovarian reserve. Blood and urine samples were collected at the time of inclusion in the study. The types of exposure under study are persistent organic pollutants, organic solvents, including glycol ethers, and heavy metals. (Funded by the Fondation de France, Agence de Biomédecine).
 

Occupational exposure and male fertility

The link between occupational exposure to chemical and physical agents and semen characteristics has been the subject of several transversal studies carried out at different periods and in different locations around the world. It is sometimes difficult to draw firm conclusions due to the variability of the nature and causes of exposure according to location. In collaboration with Argentinian colleagues from the University of Rosario (Argentina), we have recently undertaken an analysis of data from couples having consulted a doctor for infertility problems between 1999 and 2009 in Argentinian provinces with intensive farming and industrial activities located in the "Humid Pampa" area. The study focuses first of all on the link between occupational exposure to pesticides, solvents and radiating heat sources and the sperm and reproductive hormone parameters. This study follows on from a previous study on occupational exposure carried out in the same centers between 1995 and 1998, at a time when genetically modified soya cultivation had not yet been widely introduced. This study will also focus on the influence of paternal and maternal exposure during the subject's pregnancy and fertility in males on reaching adulthood.

Studies published on the link between occupational exposure and male fertility have usually been based on populations selected among couples treated in infertility clinics. Under a partnership with research teams from the University of Geneva (Switzerland), we are currently studying a sample of 3,000 army conscripts, representing the Swiss population aged 18 to 22. The study focuses on the links between personal and parental occupational exposure (during their own pregnancy) on fertility measured principally through spermatic parameters.