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BPA Exposure Linked to Erectile Dysfunction Risk


Men who are exposed to high levels of BPA at work may have an increased risk of erectile dysfunction, according to results of a five-year study. This is the first research study to evaluate the impact of BPA on the male reproductive system in humans.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical made in the production of polycarbonated plastics and epoxy resins that are found in baby bottles, plastic containers, the lining of food and beverage cans, in dental sealants, and in other everyday products. Increasing concern about the health implications of exposure to this chemical has resulted in BPA no longer being used in certain products by some manufacturers.

Previous studies have shown that BPA has an effect on the male and possibly the female reproductive system in laboratory animals, including erectile dysfunction, reduced testosterone levels, and reduction in sexual desire. In a 2007 review study at the Columbia Environmental Research Center in Missouri, the investigators concluded that “adult exposure to BPA affects the male reproductive tract” and that the chemical also affected the brain.

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This newest study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente and funded by the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), examined 634 factory workers in China. The investigators compared 230 workers who were exposed to high levels of BPA in their positions as packagers, technical supervisors, lab technicians, and maintenance workers, with a control group of 404 factory workers who had no exposure to BPA on the job. BPA levels were measured by conducting spot air sampling, personal air sample monitoring, review of factory records, and through interviews with factory workers about hygiene habits, use of protective equipment, and their exposure to other toxins.

In-person interviews with the workers regarding erectile function, ejaculation capability, sexual desire, and overall satisfaction with their sex life showed that the men who were exposed to BPA had a nearly fourfold increased risk of reduced sexual desire and overall satisfaction with their sex life, greater than fourfold increased risk of erection difficulty, and more than a sevenfold increased risk of difficulty with ejaculation.

The levels of BPA the workers were exposed to is about 50 times greater than what the average American male can expect in the United States. However, the investigators note that more research is needed to answer the question: Is there a safe level for BPA exposure? Because many experts believe BPA can disrupt the endocrine system, and thus likely impact both the male and female reproductive systems, the need for more research is apparent. This study was the first of several that the authors plan to conduct to examine the impact of BPA in humans.

Li D et al. Human Reproduction 2009 Nov; online
Moon DG et al. International Journal of Ipotence Research 2001 Oct; 13(5): 309-16
Richter CA et al. Reproductive Toxicology 2007 Aug-Sep; 24(2): 199-224