Plastics Chemical BPA Tied to Poor Sperm
THURSDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Men with high amounts of
the controversial plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in their
urine also tend to have impaired semen quality, a new study of
factory workers in China reveals.
The research, funded by the U.S. National Institute of
Occupational Safety and Health, found high urine levels of BPA to
be significantly associated with a drop in sperm concentration,
overall sperm count, sperm vitality and sperm motility.
Although prior work with mice and rats had uncovered troubling
associations between BPA exposure and damage to the male
reproductive system, the current finding is the first drawn from
research involving people.
"Compared with men
without detectable urine BPA, those with detectable urine BPA
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,"
study lead author Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal
epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in
Oakland, Calif., said in a news release from the organization.
BPA was not found, however, to have an impact upon either the
shape of sperm or its volume, Li noted.
Li and his colleagues report their observations Oct. 28 in the
Fertility and Sterility.
BPA is commonly found in industrial settings involved in the
manufacturing of a wide array of items including baby bottles,
plastic containers, food and beverage container linings, and even
Responding to recent reports, in January the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration and other U.S. health agencies pledged $30 million
toward short- and long-term research aimed at clarifying the health
effects of the chemical.
The current report is the third released by Li and his team over
the past year. Their first study indicated that exposure to high
amounts of BPA in the work environment is linked to a higher risk
for impaired sexual function among men, while a second report found
evidence that as urine levels of BPA rise, male sexual function
The latest report is based on a five-year study of 218 Chinese
factory workers who provided researchers with both urine and semen
Even after accounting for a host of other potentially
influential factors, such as smoking and drinking history, chronic
disease background, job history, prior exposure to other chemicals
and heavy metals, and a prior history of fertility issues, the
study authors determined that the association between high BPA
urine levels and poor semen quality endured.
Li said his team's work suggests that BPA appears to have a
consistent and potent negative impact on male reproductive
What's more, the research team said their findings could have
implications beyond the factory setting.
"Similar dose-response associations were observed among participants with only environmental BPA exposure at levels comparable to men in the general United States population," Li noted.
But not everyone agreed with that notion.
Steven Hentges is executive director of the Polycarbonate/BPA
Global Group with the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade
organization based in Arlington, Va. The new findings are "likely
to have limited relevance to consumers," he said.
"This study is a little bit lean on details, but what's clear is that it wasn't designed to examine the potential effects of BPA on consumers," Hentges stressed. "It focused on workers. And from what they report we can be sure that some workers were exposed to extraordinarily high amounts of BPA. Thousands of times higher than the average American," he added.
"And in fact, in recent years government agencies around the world have examined the science around BPA, and have concluded that low doses are not a risk to human health," Hentges continued. "The European Food Safety Authority, which is like the FDA in Europe, and whose primary focus with respect to BPA was on reproductive health, released a very comprehensive update on safety issues in September and reaffirmed their previous conclusions that BPA low-dose exposure isn't a risk to human health."
For more on BPA, head to the
U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health
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