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Medical memo: Insecticides, testosterone, and fertility

Updated: May 01, 2008

Medical memo

Insecticides, testosterone, and fertility

Insecticides have produced major benefits for America's farmers and businessmen, as well as for gardens and homes just like yours. But because they are toxins, the chemicals that kill unwanted critters also have the potential to affect human health. And a study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that one insecticide may reduce the levels of male reproductive hormones and impair sperm quality.

The chemical in question is chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that is toxic to a wide range of organisms rather than a single species. Although it is classified as "nonpersistent," when applied indoors or tracked in from outdoors, it can persist for extended periods. In one case, for example, it was found in household air four years after it was applied in the home.

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