Current-Use Pesticides: Assessing Exposure and Spermatoxicity

EPA Grant Number: R832515 aka R832098
Title: Current-Use Pesticides: Assessing Exposure and Spermatoxicity
Investigators: Swan, Shanna Helen
Current Investigators: Swan, Shanna Helen , Sparks, Amy , Thomas, Peter
Institution: University of Rochester
Current Institution: University of Rochester , The University of Texas at Austin , University of Iowa , University of Rochester
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2010
Project Amount: $672,821
RFA: Application of Biomarkers to Environmental Health and Risk Assessment (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Health Effects , Health


We recently reported that higher levels of urinary metabolite (mercapturates) of the current-use pesticides alachlor, atrazine and diazinon were significantly associated with decreased semen quality in fertile men from mid-Missouri. The primary goal of this study is to strengthen or refute these findings by increasing our sample size and adding data from a second agricultural area (Iowa City, IA). Secondarily, the adequacy of these metabolites for exposure assessment will be examined, as will route of exposure and one possible mechanism of pesticide action on semen.


  1. Increase the precision of our prior estimates of exposure to current-use pesticides and compare these in agricultural (IA and MO) and urban (MN) areas;
  2. Estimate the strength of the associations between biomarkers of current-use pesticides and semen parameters across study centers, as well as within center;
  3. Examine correlation between the man’s and the woman’s biomarker levels of current-use pesticides as well as geographical clustering of exposure levels;

  4. Examine simultaneous exposure to multiple pesticides and semen quality and compare the fit of additive, sub-additive and super-additive models to these data;

  5. Measure associations between urinary and serum biomarkers of current-use pesticides;

  6. Measure levels of human sperm membrane progesterone receptor (hmPRα) in relation to both semen parameters and levels of current-use pesticides.


Subjects for the proposed study are fertile men and their partners who participated in the Study for Future Families (SFF), a multi-center pregnancy cohort study conducted under funding from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and a STAR grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Protocols ( (Logon: SFF; Password: family1) have been kept constant across centers and over time. Urinary pesticide levels in 150 new recruits from IA will be examined together with results from men previously recruited in MO (N=107) and MN (N=126) to estimate associations between pesticide levels and semen quality. We will compare urine and serum pesticide levels and pesticide levels within the couple and geographical clustering of pesticide levels. We also propose to measure levels of human sperm membrane progesterone receptor (hmPRα) in relation to semen quality and pesticides in smaller samples.

Expected Results:

If these more powerful analyses replicate our prior findings, this will strongly suggest that these current-use pesticides, now widely used throughout the mid-west, are spermatotoxic at environmental levels. The next tasks will be to identify the route of exposure to these pesticides and the mechanism(s) of their action on sperm function; meeting our objectives should provide important leads towards answering these questions.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 13 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 9 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Endocrine disruption, environmental exposure and risk, endocrine disruptors; pesticides; herbicides;  human health; epidemiology, health risk assessment, risk assessments, semen quality; sperm concentration, sperm motility, endocrine disrupting chemicals, exposure, exposure studies, biomarkers; synergy; progesterone receptor; membrane receptor; metabolites, reproductive health,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Health Risk Assessment, Endocrine Disruptors - Environmental Exposure & Risk, endocrine disruptors, Biochemistry, Endocrine Disruptors - Human Health, pesticide exposure, EDCs, endocrine disrupting chemicals, exposure studies, altered sexual development, developmental biology, human growth and development, atrazine, agrochemicals

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009
  • Final Report