BPA may reduce sperm count
October 28th, 2010
03:01 AM ET

BPA may reduce sperm count

Exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), a controversial chemical found in hard, clear plastics, is thought to increase the risk of birth defects, early puberty, obesity, brain damage, and some forms of cancer.

Add another potential problem to the list: A new study of Chinese factory workers suggests that very high levels of BPA exposure may decrease sperm count and contribute to other sperm-related problems in men.

The findings aren't surprising. BPA—which can be found in some baby bottles and water bottles, as well the linings of food and beverage cans—is known to be a so-called endocrine disruptor that functions "like a weak estrogen" and blocks male sex hormones (including testosterone), says the lead author of the study, De-Kun Li, M.D., a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente's division of research, in Oakland, California.

Health.com: 4 things that mess with your hormones
But the study is notable because it's one of the first in humans to link BPA with reproductive problems. Until very recently, most of the evidence implicating BPA in health problems has come from animal or laboratory studies. (BPA has been associated with reduced sperm count in mice and rats, for instance.)

"Human studies have been the missing link,"  Li says.

In the new study, which appears in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Li and his colleagues collected urine and semen samples from 218 factory workers, some of whom worked in facilities that make BPA or epoxy resin and were therefore regularly exposed to very high levels of the chemical.

Compared with men whose urine was BPA-free, those who had detectable levels of BPA were four times more likely to have a below-average sperm count, three times more likely to have fewer "live" sperm than average, and two times more likely to have below-average sperm quality (motility).

In previous studies conducted in the same population,  Li's team found a similar association between BPA exposure and erectile dysfunction, among other sexual problems.

Health.com: Study links BPA in plastics to erectile dysfunction

“If BPA has such an impact on male sexual function, we have to wonder what else it has an impact on,"  Li says.

The findings don't prove cause and effect, however, and it's not clear how relevant they are for men in the U.S. who aren't exposed to unusually high levels of BPA. Although the researchers did find a connection between BPA levels and sperm problems in men who were exposed to BPA only in the general environment (rather than the workplace), it's possible that the study population differs from the U.S. population in key ways.

Still, the study seems likely to serve as ammunition for advocates and public health officials who favor restrictions on BPA.

Health.com: 12 ways to remove (and avoid) toxics in your home and body

Earlier this month, Canada became the first nation to officially declare BPA a toxic substance. Although the U.S. government hasn't taken similar action, several states have banned the use of the chemical in baby products (or have considered it) and many manufacturers have voluntarily phased out BPA from their products.

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. SueW

    The problem with this type of study is it's not really telling us anything about the so called "man on the street" as it studied people exposed to large amounts of the chemical- people who work in the industry are exposed in a different manner than those drinking out of a plastic bottle. I wish they would study what lower amounts do but we routinely put small amounts of poisons in our bodies through medications, and vaccines. That they don't study what smaller amounts of BPA do, (more like trace amounts) – what does that prove – that they really don't know? Some things in small amounts like the preservative in vaccines which is a type of mercury are very toxic and yet vaccines are heartily encouraged by the medical profession. As a lay person, seems to me it's all giving mixed signals here.

    October 28, 2010 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JohnnyVersus

      you are absolutely right, small trace amounts can and do build up overtime. such an example to test your theory is with the fluoride situation. the amount of fluoride used in say toothpaste is set at a level where such exposure will not harm a person directly, but there is also a warning on the product to contact a medical doctor in case of swallowing. now if we put that in our water systems we are only adding to more of that level. as with fluoride in baby products and so on. as for vaccines, all tests are done on those with outstanding health and no medical disorders, such as diabetes, asthma, etc. check out the CDC report on the Swine Flu, test subjects were of a young age, 7-12 yrs old. children at peak and perfect health do not mirror others such as the elderly or those who suffer from certain genetic traits. and the subject is only tested for a matter of weeks. there is not a concern for long term effects or even studies doe in that matter, and we all know of some of the devastating side effects that vaccine has had on folks with neurological disorders ranging from inducing narcosis to even sudden infant death. there are also reports of this vaccine impairing motor functions, such as a woman here in Philly who has to run backwards to be able to talk. these disorders have the same link to ones reported by Americans in the 70's with the last Swine Flu epidemic. and yet the creators of these vaccines say the evidence is inconclusive to ":their" studies.
      in my opinion they don't study hard enough.

      October 28, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • 4sanity

      The reason why they study workers who are routinely exposed to large doses is because it allows them to follow the effects on a small group. The lower the dose, the larger the study needs to be to gain statistical significance. That's not say there aren't serious health effects at lower levels that would affect the "ordinary man on the street", just a fact that in a world with a myriad number of confounding effects it's difficult to reach conclusions if working at the lower limit of the dose-response curve.

      October 28, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    Male contraceptive? We are poisoning our children with all the chemicals we put in our bodies..

    October 28, 2010 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Tests!

    Wouldn't it be great if you could by a "do-it-yourself" urine test at the store? I'd love to know if I have detectable levels of BPA. I would probably pay quite a bit for the test, if it were available!

    October 28, 2010 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Austin B

      ya that would be great.....I did read an article in National Geo. magazine about a year ago on how long some of these chemicals can stay in your body....many of the chemicals found in plastics can still be dectble in your body 30 or 40 years after initial consumption.....

      October 28, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
    • 4sanity

      You don't need a urine test. You're almost definitely one of the >95 % of the US population with measurable levels. It's essentially unavoidable.

      October 28, 2010 at 22:39 | Report abuse |
  4. Wallace

    Go into a baby store and nearly every plastic product that touches food is BPA free. That it's ignored in adult foods is very puzzling. If soft drink and canned food vendors don't want to admit it's a health concern, maybe they can convince themselves to remove BPA because it's good "PR".

    Next on the list: remove Phthales. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalate

    October 28, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. boocat

    So what...there's all ready too many people on this planet.

    October 28, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JohnnyVersus

      yeah, your right, now go blow your brains out to prove your bull$hit point.

      October 28, 2010 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  6. whocares

    Boooring report, no one cares about mens health.

    October 28, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Alia

    Maybe I should get my husband to start drinking out of BPA-Full water bottles as he's knocked me up 3 times with an IUD... Just sayin'!

    October 28, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4sanity

      Actually, if you're getting pregnant even with an IUD that has low hormone release, then you may want to check out any homeopathic medications you are taking. Many of these herbal/nutritional supplements can make metabolism of synthetic and endogeneous birth control hormones increase dramatically making them useless. And chemicals like BPA do the same. Check with your doctor.

      October 28, 2010 at 21:30 | Report abuse |
    • Alia

      Copper IUD

      October 29, 2010 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
  8. Austin B

    Thankfully I have always tried to avoid eating anything or store food in or heat any food/drinks in any plastic containers. I dont have a single plastic plate or cup in my house in fact. I think the only foods I buy that come in a plastic (clear plastic) containers are milk and occasionally juice (tho I try to get those in cardboard or glass ones from the farm if I can)......I never drink bottled water, only a glass from the tap 😉 This was more out of frugality and preference....I found plastic unsuitable to eat off of, but good thing.....It certainly did not surprise me when I started to see articles about the possibility of BPA and other toxins/chemicals in various plastics in the food industry....the danger apparently is increased greatly by heating or microwaving food or drink in these BPA-containing plastic containers......

    October 28, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Cole

    "Thought to..." "may..." In other words, THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF that it's actually harmful.

    Think of how long BPA has been in use in the products we use. Think of something actually harmful – Like cigarettes – and the overwhelming proof that it does harm. If BPA was actually as harmful as many fear-mongers claim, then there would be an overwhelming pile of evidence by now. In addition, the subjects of the study were exposed to "VERY HIGH LEVELS" of chemicals, amounts that consumers wouldn't even come close to facing. And, as common sense goes, HIGH LEVELS OF EVERYTHING is bad for your health, so don't give me some nonsense about how high levels of a certain chemical has negative effects.

    1. There's no scientific proof BPA is harmful.
    2. Tell us how safe your BPA-replacement happens to be.
    3. Tell me ANYTHING that's not bad for you at very high levels.

    October 28, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4sanity

      Actually, there is a substantial amount of evidence to show that BPA has harmful effects even at environmental low dose levels encountered on a daily basis. The problem is that the regulatory process is slow to act when faced with prevalent chemicals, like polycarbonate plastics and BPA, because for every independent study, another "chemical industry funded" study finds no effect. What ends up is a political mess where its all to easy to dismiss health concerns because even in the presence of overwhelming evidence you'll always end up with skeptics and industry shills (think CO2 emissions and Global Warming).

      October 28, 2010 at 22:37 | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    Maybe one day we'll have the equality where we care as much about men's health as we do about women's. which is exactly why I never support the breast cancer scam, etc. The courtesy supoprt is never returned.

    October 28, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. OneChildOnly

    Isn't this exactly what China wants anyway? What better way to manage population than to sterilize your men willingly. Sounds more like a new initiative that the AGW crowd would embrace, a simple way to eliminate that human pestilence so the earth can soon return to its pristine, natural, non-humanized state.

    October 28, 2010 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. pamela

    Too bad we can't continue to reuse cardboard as a drinking container on a daily basis.

    October 29, 2010 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Rob

    Two major avenues for BPA exposure is heated plastic food containers (and yet I still see it done EVERY day!) and cash register receipts. The heat-activated paper used to print the receipts contains some of the highest concentrations of BPA found in the general environment. Even worse, since it's at a workplace where both employees and the public handle them bare-handed on a regular basis, the opportunity for exposure is huge. BPA has been implicated in numerous health problems for both men and women, in childhood and adulthood. So, never heat your foods in plastic containers, never drink hot liquids out of plastic cups, and handle cash register receipts as little as possible to help avoid undue exposure to BPAs. Rational, effective nutrition for fat loss and long-term health: http://www.NutritionPerfected.com

    October 29, 2010 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Carol Green

    My disabled son, on SSI, suffers prostatitis and recently had an operation for kidney stones. For years, he ate fruits, vegetables, beans and soups from cans. Like many on SSI, he goes through maybe 100 cans of food a month.
    Recently, after learning that BPA actually causes the ailments he suffers, my son stopped eating canned foods. Within weeks, all his symptoms–painful symptoms he has suffered for ten years–have completely disappeared. The reason? He is no longer ingesting BPA.
    Thousands of impoverished people in the US are homeless, in shelters or group homes, with no ability to store food in refrigerators or cook food on stovetops. They are forced to eat out of cans at each meal. Shelters serve food daily to the hungry from cans donated in canned food drives. The resulting physical problems caused by BPA cost the taxpayer millions of dollars to treat.
    I believe our FDA is complicit in harming the health of the poor by not banning BPA. Compounding the problem, the government then siphons taxpayer money to help the poor with resulting prostate and kidney operations, hospitalization, and medication.
    I want to know why the FDA permits a chemical like BPA to be used in food containers when it is so dangerous. I want to know why the FDA doesn't ban BPA now that it is known to cause widespread medical problems.
    The chemical companies are in bed with the lawmakers and the FDA. They are mercenaries committing genocide, and the FDA is the accomplice.
    My family has vowed not to eat canned foods until BPA is banned.
    What else can we do?

    Carol Green, Retired California Teacher

    November 13, 2010 at 02:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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