Parelho, C., Bernardo, F., Camarinho, R., Rodrigues, A.S. & Garcia, P.V. (2016) Testicular damage and farming environments - an integrative ecotoxicological link.Chemosphere, 155, 135-141. DOI:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.04.043 (IF2016 4,208; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
The exposure to agrochemicals during farming activities affects the function of the reproductive system, as revealed by the increasing worldwide evidence of male infertility amongst farmers. The main objective of this study was to untangle the link between agricultural practices and male reproductive impairment due to chronic exposure to xenobiotics (such as agrochemicals) in conventional and organic farming environments. For this purpose, male wild mice (Mus musculus) populations from sites representing two distinct farming practices (conventional and organic farming systems) were used as bioindicators for observable effects of testicular damage, namely on a set of histological and cellular parameters: (i) relative volumetric density of different spermatogenic cells and interstitial space; (ii) damage in the seminiferous tubules and (iii) apoptotic cells in the germinal epithelium. Results showed that mice from the conventional farming site bioaccumulated higher Pb hepatic loads, while mice from the organic farming site tend to bioaccumulate higher Cd hepatic loads. In general, for the analyzed testicular damage related parameters, mice from the organic farming site showed a similar performance than mice from the reference site. Mice from the conventional farming site stood out not only by underperforming in most studied parameters, while displaying an association between Pb hepatic loads and the observed testicular structural and functional disruption, but also by the increased stress index (Integrated Biomarker Response value). This study highlights the potential damaging effects of conventional farming practices on testicular structure and function, under natural conditions, raising concern about ensuing fertility risks for farmers.