Ditch the Plastic to Prevent Infertility: New Reasons to Ban BPA by Carey Rossi
When I was pregnant with my son, I threw out all the plastic containers and cups in our kitchen. I had read an article in Discover Magazine about how exposure to plastic (specifically bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastic containers harder) could cause infertility in boys. Bye-bye, cheap Tupperware!
So it didn’t surprise me when I came across research that found bisphenol A (BPA) exposure could affect thyroid function and reproductive hormone levels in men — grown men. The study, published in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology, measured urinary concentrations of BPA and compared them to levels of serum thyroid and reproductive hormone levels in 167 men from an infertility clinic. Eighty-nine percent of the urine samples had detectable levels of BPA in them. Men with a higher concentration of BPA in their urine had higher blood levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and lower levels of inhibin B, both of which is associated with poor sperm quality.
This is only a preliminary study but it adds to a growing body of research that finds BPA exposure increasing the risk of male infertility. So far, Canada and Denmark are the only two countries that have banned their use in food packaging for children under 3. My household will follow suit and continue to shun these contaminated containers. You may want to consider cleaning out your cupboards too. (Hint: Pyrex makes great glass food containers.)
Meeker, JD et al. Environmental Science and Technology; 2010 Feb 15;44(4):1458-63.
Editor’s Note: BPA has been making big headlines this week. A group of 60 scientists from health and environmental organizations around the world has issued an open letter to the European Food Safety Authority, which is currently reviewing BPA’s safety, calling for stricter regulation of the chemical. The letter cites the myriad of scientific studies which demonstrate the hazards of BPA exposure.
Also this week, the Endocrine Society in the U.S. announced that the findings of two studies demonstrating the negative effects of BPA exposure on health will be presented at its annual meeting next week.
The first of the two studies shows that exposure to BPA in the womb may impair development of male testicular function later in life. The study authors said that their findings demonstrate the harmful effects of BPA on a cellular level — at levels that are lower than what the FDA and EPA consider safe for humans.
“This is concerning because large segments of the population, including pregnant and nursing mothers, are exposed to this chemical,” said lead study author, Benson Akingbemi.
The second study links BPA exposure to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women.
Researchers found that compared to healthy women, women with polycystic ovary syndrome have higher concentrations of BPA in their blood, and they linked this increase to higher levels of male hormones as well.
“Women with the polycystic ovary syndrome should be alert regarding this environmental contaminant’s potential adverse effects on reproductive aspects of their health problem,“ said study co-author, Evanthia Diamanti-Kandarakis of the University of Athens Medical School in Greece.