Environ Health. 2020 Nov 25;19(1):124. doi: 10.1186/s12940-020-00672-0.
BACKGROUND: Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as metals have been reported to alter circulating reproductive hormone concentrations and pubertal development in animals. However, the relationship has rarely been investigated among humans, with the exception of heavy metals, such as Pb and Cd. Our aim was to investigate measures of in utero and peripubertal metal exposure in relation to reproductive hormone concentrations and sexual maturation and progression among boys from the Early Life Exposure in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) cohorts.
METHODS: Our analysis included 118 pregnant women and their male children from the ELEMENT study. Essential and non-essential metals were measured in urine collected from the mothers during the third trimester of pregnancy and their male children at 8-14 years. Reproductive hormone concentrations [serum testosterone, estradiol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), inhibin B, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)] were measured in blood samples from the children at 8-14 years. We also assessed Tanner stages for sexual maturation (genital, pubic hair development, and testicular volume), at two time points (8-14, 10-18 years). We used linear regression to independently examine urinary metal concentrations in relation to each peripubertal reproductive hormones adjusting for child age and BMI. Generalized estimation equations (GEEs) were used to evaluate the association of in utero and peripubertal metal exposures with sexual maturation and progression during follow-up based on Tanner staging and testicular volume.
RESULTS: In utero and prepubertal concentrations of some urinary metals were associated with increased concentrations of peripubertal reproductive hormones, especially non-essential metal(loid)s As and Cd (in utero), and Ba (peripubertal) as well as essential metal Mo (in utero) in association with testosterone. More advanced pubic hair developmental stage and higher testicular volume at the early teen visit was observed for boys with higher non-essential metal concentrations, including in utero Al and peripubertal Ba, and essential metal Zn concentration (peripubertal). These metals were also associated with slower pubertal progression between the two visits.
CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that male reproductive development may be associated with both essential and non-essential metal exposure during in utero and peripubertal windows.