Men who are regularly exposed to moderate to high levels of organic solvents double their chances of having a low sperm count, according to a study published in the September issue in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Professional printers, along with painters and decorators are at highest risk. The only factor common to all of the men found to have low sperm counts and low sperm activity was repeated exposure to organic solvents. The most common organic solvent is ethanol or alcohol.
"We know that solvents, whether inhaled or through the skin, can invade that part of the male reproductive system where the sperms are developed," lead researcher Dr. Nicola Cherry, professor of public health sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, told United Press International. "In this study we could only nail as culprits the organic solvents used in painting and in printing."
The author said men exposed to high levels of organic solvents should take care to minimize their exposure, not only because of the reproductive effects but also because of the known adverse effects on the nervous system.