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Welding processes produce toxic fumes consisting of gaseous and aerosol by-products which pose a risk to the male reproductive systems. The rate of infertility has increased globally. This study therefore sought to assess the effects of welding fume inhalation on the sex hormones of welders in Nnewi. A site-by-site cross-sectional study of 45 welders (aged between 18 and 50 years) who were exposed to welding fumes (Test group) and 45 age-matched non-welders (Control group) was carried out. The ages of the Test and Control subjects, as well as the years of exposure of the Test subjects were obtained via questionnaire. A single non-fasting venous blood (about 5 mls) was collected from the ante-cubital space from the subjects via venipuncture between 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM. Serum was separated following clotting, and used for the investigation of the levels of male sex hormones: Testosterone (T), Progesterone (P), Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) among welders. Sex hormones were assayed by Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay. The results showed that Testosterone (2.45±0.34 ng/ml) was significantly lower (p<0.05) in welders when compared to controls (4.94±0.81 ng/ml) and significantly increased (p<0.05) levels of Progesterone (0.54±0.09 ng/ml) and LH (7.47±1.56 mIU/L) were found in welders compared with controls Progesterone (0.45±0.08 ng/ml) and LH (5.53±1.05 mIU/L). There was no significant difference in the levels of FSH of the test when compared with the controls. This finding of altered hormone levels indicates a likelihood of reduced reproductive outcome. Exposure to welding fume may therefore interfere with testicular functions leading to disordered reproductive performance, delayed conception, and reduced fertility.
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