Detergent chemicals "impact" human sex cells

Danish researchers find endocrine disrupting effect from alkylphenol ethoxylate breakdown product

A breakdown product of a chemical widely used in detergents and personal care items can inhibit the growth of male sex cells in human foetal tissue under laboratory conditions, according to Danish researchers.

The research is claimed to be the first establish a possible link between human fertility and octylphenol, which is formed as the surfactant chemicals alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) break down in the environment. An initial publication in last month's issue of the Danish Strategic Environmental Research Programme's journal aroused concern among local environmental groups and prompted Danish Euro MEP Torben Lund to call for an EU ban.

Carried out at Copenhagen's main university teaching hospital Rigshospitalet, the Royal Veterinary College and Odense university, the research involved cultures from reproductive organs of 20 human foetuses. Other tests were carried out on tissues from pigs and mice. The studies are now being taken forward by injecting octylphenol beneath the skin of live animals and studying the results over two generations.

Follow Up:
Rigshospitalet, tel: +45 35 45 35 45; Danish environmental research programme, tel: +45 66 15 86 00. The December issue of Miljoforskning, containing a preliminary paper in Danish.

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