Urinary levels of insecticide metabolites and DNA damage in human sperm

John D. Meeker, Narendra P. Singh, Louise Ryan, Susan M. Duty, Dana B. Barr, Robert F. Herrick, Deborah H Bennett, Russ Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Background: Members of the general population are exposed to non-persistent insecticides at low levels. The present study explored whether environmental exposures to carbaryl and chlorpyrifos are associated with DNA damage in human sperm. Methods: Subjects (n = 260) were recruited through a Massachusetts infertility clinic. Individual exposures were measured as spot urinary metabolite concentrations of chlorpyrifos [3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPY)] and carbaryl [1-naphthol (1N)], adjusted using specific gravity. Sperm DNA integrity was assessed by neutral comet assay and reported as comet extent, percentage DNA in comet tail (Tail%) and tail distributed moment (TDM). Results: A statistically significant increase in Tail% was found for an interquartile range (IQR) increase in both 1N [coefficient = 4.1; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.9-6.3] and TCPY (2.8; 0.9-4.6), while a decrease in TDM was associated with IQR changes in 1N (-2.2; -4.9 to 0.5) and TCPY (-2.5; -4.7 to -0.2). A negative correlation between Tail% and TDM was present only when stratified by comet extent, suggesting that Tail% and TDM may measure different types of DNA damage within comet extent strata. Conclusions: Environmental exposure to carbaryl and chlorpyrifos may be associated with increased DNA damage in human sperm, as indicated by a change in comet assay parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2573-2580
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Comet assay
  • DNA damage
  • Exposure
  • Insecticides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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