Fertility among a Cohort of Male Sawmill Workers Exposed to Chlorophenate Fungicides

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The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to chlorophenate fungicides and their dioxin contaminants is associated with male infertility among sawmill workers. The study was conducted using fertility data compiled from 26,487 sawmill workers in 14 British Columbian sawmills. Our analysis was restricted to workers who had been employed for at least 1 continuous year between 1950 and 1985 and to live-births born at least 1 year after the initiation of employment in the period 1955–1988. We assessed fertility trends by internal comparison using Mantel-Haenszel rate ratios and by calculating standardized fertility ratios using an external and an internal reference population. We identified 19,684 births in the study period. Initially, both external and internal analyses showed that sawmill workers from mills using chlorophenates had lower fertility than workers employed in mills not using chlorophenates. After controlling for time since first hire, however, we found no inverse relation between cumulative exposure to chlorophenate fungicides and fertility. Based on the results of our study, there is little evidence for a reduction in fertility among chlorophenate-exposed sawmill workers in British Columbia. The analyses indicate the importance of time since hire as a potentially strong confounder in this type of investigation.

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