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BPA Worsens Male Sexual Function


Men who have elevated levels in urine of bisphenol-A (BPA), a substance found in many consumer products, are more likely to experience worsening male sexual function, including decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. This is the first study done in humans to show that high urine levels of BPA are linked with reduced sexual function in men.

This study, which was conducted by researchers with Kaiser Permanente, follows a previous investigation by the same organization in which measures of BPA exposure were recorded based on workers history and environmental exposure to BPA on the job. Various other research has shown an association between exposure to BPA and asthma risk in children, fertility, hyperactivity in girls, and harm to the heart.

BPA is an ingredient used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. A major exposure source is food, as BPA leaks out of the resin lining of cans for foods and beverages and from plastic contains that are often used to store and heat food. An Environmental Working Group study found, for example, that 10 percent of all canned foods tested and in 33 percent of cans of infant formula, a single serving contained BPA levels greater than 200 times the government’s safe level for industrial chemicals. BPA is also found in baby bottles, water bottles, and dental sealants.

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The new five-year study, the results of which were published in the online Journal of Andrology, included 427 workers in factories in China and compared those who were exposed to BPA in manufacturing environments with controls who worked in factories without BPA. Urine samples from workers were analyzed for concentration levels of BPA using high-performance liquid chromatography.

Sexual function problems, including decreased sexual desire, lower ejaculation strength, difficulty getting and maintaining an erection, and overall less satisfaction with sex life, were uncovered using standard male sexual function inventories and in-person interviews. The researchers noted that BPA is suspected to disrupt the human endocrine system, which affects both male and female reproductive systems.

De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, the study’s lead author, explained that “even among men exposed to BPA from only environmental sources (no occupational exposure and with average BPA level lower than the average observed in the American population), there were indications of an increased risk of sexual dysfunction.”

Kathy Gerwig, Kasier Permanente’s vice president of Workplace Safety and environmental stewardship officer noted that “this study greatly enhances our understanding of the health effects of BPA.” Given that BPA exposure appears to worsen male sexual function and the results of previous research show an association between exposure to BPA and various health risks, it seems wise for individuals to avoid this environmental toxin as much as possible.

Environmental Working Group
Li DK et al. Journal of Andrology 2010 May 13