BPA in Plastics Linked to Sperm Problems
The chemical BPA – used in some plastics – may affect the sperm of men whose jobs involve working with it.
BPA, or bisphenol-A, can be found in work settings where baby bottles, plastic containers, food and beverage container linings, and dental sealants are made. BPA is a component of the plastics that make up these items.
Experts say that exposure to BPA can cause a drop in sperm concentration, count, vitality, quality, and movement.
Testing a high-risk group
For five years, researchers funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health studied 218 workers at Chinese factories that used BPA in production. As part of the study, the men provided urine and semen samples.
The researchers found high levels of BPA in the urine of the men. Men with BPA in their urine had more than three times the risk for lowered sperm concentration and lower sperm vitality than men who had no BPA in their urine, says De-Kun Li, M.D., at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research.
Dr. Li, who reported his findings in the journal Fertility and Sterility, also found that the men had more than four times the risk for a lower sperm count and more than twice the risk for lower sperm motility.
Steven Hentges, Ph.D., with the American Chemistry Council, says the findings may not be meaningful to men who don’t work in a factory.
He says the study was not designed to look at the effects of BPA on consumers because it focused on workers in China exposed to high levels of the chemical.
Findings may help U.S. learn more
Because of the recent reports, the FDA and other U.S. health agencies have pledged $30 million toward short- and long-term research aimed at clarifying the health effects of BPA.
The current study is the third released by Dr. Li and his team over the last year.
Their first study showed that a high amount of BPA in the workplace is linked to a higher risk for impaired sexual function among men. A second report found that as urine levels of BPA rise, male sexual function dips.
The research team said their findings could point to concerns beyond the factory setting.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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More About Infertility in Men
A man’s fertility can be affected by more than just his environment. These factors also play a role:
• Low or absent sperm production. Without proper numbers of healthy sperm, the chance of fertilization is decreased.
• Abnormal sperm function. Sperm must have proper motility and the ability to penetrate the egg.
• Varicocele. This is a condition in which varicose veins develop around the testes. It is a very common cause of male factor infertility and is usually treatable.
• Lifestyle. Recreational drugs, heavy alcohol use, cigarette smoking, certain medications, and hot tubs can affect sperm quality and function.
• Hormonal disorders and chromosome defects. These can affect sperm production and fertilization ability.
• Immune system problems. A man may have antisperm antibodies that attack and destroy sperm
If you have questions or concerns about infertility, talk with your health care provider.