Hyderabad: Men exposed to industrial fumes are at risk of losing their reproductive strength with the quality and count of their sperm being significantly affected.
According to a joint research study by city-based Institute of Genetics, Mahavir Hospital, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre, men exposed to industrial fumes containing nickel and chromium, showed decreased vitality and significantly higher percentage of defects in sperm.
The study, however, found that smoking did not show any effect on semen parameters in industrial workers and welders as also in the control group. Though there was no significant difference in the volume of ejaculated semen of men exposed to fumes and those in the control group, the former had a lower sperm count (almost half), rapid linear progressive motility, and slow progressive motility when compared to control men.
The percentage of normal sperm was also low in the exposed group. They also showed higher percentage of defects in the head and mid-piece of sperm.
Research team member Dr Roya Rozati points out that men exposed to nickel and chromium had a large number of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa in their ejaculates. The levels of these metals in blood was also higher than that of the control group.
"There was a significant positive correlation between the percentage of tail defects and blood nickel and chromium concentration in male welders. Sperm vitality decreased with increasing chromium concentration", Dr Roya told this correspondent.
The study covered 57 employees of an industrial welding plant. The workers have been exposed to two to 21 years to welding fumes. The control group also consisted of 57 subjects, not exposed to known harmful chemicals. Forty-five per cent of the men in the study were smokers and 32 were alcohol consumers. Sperm samples were obtained after a three-day period of sexual abstinence.
Heavy metals nickel and chromium are widely distributed in the work place. Nickel is extensively used in the plating industry, sometimes in combination with other metals. It is also used in electroplating, welding, flame cutting, flame spraying, and mould making. Nickel is also used in the manufacture of jewellery, coinage, cutlery, cooking utensils and dental or surgical prostheses. Chromium is used in metallurgy, chrome plating, welding, chemical industry, textile manufacture, wood preservation, photography and photoengraving, refractory industry and cooling system.
Nickel crosses the placental barrier, directly affecting the developing embryo or foetus in experimental animals. Spermatotoxic effects of nickel in mice have also been observed.
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