Scientists link sterility with
high dioxin levels

Copyright 1999 The Yomiuri Shimbun
November 12, 1999

Women suffering from severe endometriosis and men aged under 35 with low sperm counts usually have high levels of dioxin in their body, researchers have discovered.

The results released by Osamu Tsutsumi, a professor of gynecology at Tokyo University Hospital, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, are largely based on data illustrating the effects dioxins have on human reproductive functions.

The findings will be presented at a conference of the Japanese Society of Fertility and Sterility in Tokyo on Friday.

Tsutsumi and his medical team took one-gram samples of subcutaneous fat from 12 endometriosis sufferers aged from 25 to 45 during operations at Tokyo University Hospital.

Of them, three patients with mild symptoms were found to have an average 11.2 picograms of dioxin per gram of fat, while nine others with more severe symptoms averaged 19.88 picograms--78 percent higher. One picogram is equivalent to one-trillionth of a gram.

They also measured dioxin levels in 38 men treated for infertility at Tokyo University Hospital, by sampling one gram of fat taken from their serum.

Comparing the dioxin levels of 18 men who produced less than 40 million sperm per cubic centimeter of semen, and 20 others with normal sperm counts, the researchers found an average of 11.86 picograms of dioxins per gram of fat in the second group and 14.62 picograms in the first group-an insignificant difference.

But they then discovered that, among men aged up to 35 in the two groups, those with normal sperm counts had dioxin levels averaging 8.89 picograms per gram of fat, while those with lower sperm counts were found to have as much as 15.79 picograms per gram of fat.

Tsutsumi said it was still unknown whether the high dioxin levels were the cause of endometriosis in women and of a reduction in male sperm production, but he said, "It has been reported that high dioxin levels have significant effects on reproductive functions in animal experiments."

Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue that normally remains inside the uterus proliferates in other areas such as the ovaries or the intestines, and can cause heavy menstrual cramps and sterility.

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