Exposure to BPA Linked to Male Fertility Problems
Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used to make resins and strengthen plastics, has been linked to many health problems that affect men, not only potentially fatal diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but also life-changing conditions such as decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. The latest study also finds that BPA may be responsible for impaired semen quality and a drop in sperm count.
BPA Lowers Sperm Concentration and Vitality, but Not Shape and Size
Although much research has been done on men and women who experience high-dose exposure, such as those that are exposed in their work settings, Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist, has found that similar associations are found in those with general environmental exposure as well. Most Americans’ urine has evidence of BPA exposure, as the chemical is used in commonly used products like hard plastic drinking bottles, metal food container linings, dental sealants, and cash register receipts.
The most recent research, funded by the US National Institute of Occupational Safety, found that men with high amounts of chemical BPA in their urine had more than three times the risk of lowered sperm concentration and lower sperm vitality, more than four times the risk of a lower sperm count, and more than twice the risk of lower sperm motility than those without detectable urine BPA.
Li did not find an association between BPA and sperm shape or its volume.
The data is based on a five-year study of 218 Chinese factory workers who provided researchers both urine and semen samples. The findings held even after accounting for other potentially influential factors such as smoking, prior exposure to other chemicals, and personal history of fertility issues.
Gail Prins, a reproductive physiologist not involved with the study, says that the findings make sense. “Evidence has indicated that for the past few decades, sperm counts have been declining In some human populations – and that this might be related to exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA is very reasonable.”
Dr. Li says that the findings confirm that the general public “should probably try to avoid exposure to BPA as much as they can.” Prins agrees, as chemical levels build over time. US News reporter Deborah Kotz suggests the following methods:
• Consume frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned. In addition to their BPA-free benefit, fresh and frozen produce usually have more nutrients, which often get lost in the process of canning.
• Purchase beverages in plastic or glass bottles. Canned soda and juice often contain some BPA. If you do use plastic, look for those without a number 7 recycling code, which usually indicates the presence of BPA.
• Use powdered infant formula instead of ready-to-serve liquid. A separate assessment from the Environmental Working Group found that liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered brands.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been evaluating the safety of BPA with the assistance of the National Institutes of Health but declined to say if it is considering following Canada's lead in declaring the chemical toxic and banning it from use.