Plastic Chemical BPA Linked to Lower Sperm Count & Quality

By Jennifer Welsh | October 29, 2010 4:39 pm

sperm-2A new study of 218 Chinese men found that even low levels of the controversial plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can lower sperm quality and count.

For the study, which was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers noted the participants’ sperm quality and urine BPA levels over five years. When compared to participants without detectable levels of the chemical, men with BPA in their urine were three times more likely to have low quality sperm.

“This adds additional human evidence that BPA is bad,” said [the study’s first author] De-Kun Li…. “The general public should probably try to avoid exposure to BPA as much as they can.” [Washington Post]

That’s a tough order, because BPA is all over the place. It’s found in everything from sports equipment to medical devices to the plastic lining in canned foods.

Li’s previous studies have shown sexual effects of high levels of BPA, including inducing impotence in male factory workers exposed to it. Those studies were done with men exposed to about 50 times as much BPA as the average U.S. man, so the results might not apply to your average Joe.

However, in the current study Li argues that the chemical didn’t only have a detrimental effect on individuals with sky-high BPA levels. Even participants with low levels, comparable to the average American, had diminished sperm quality and count.

“The higher your exposure, the lower your sperm quality is,” he said. [Washington Post]

Much of the controversy about BPA has focused on the question of what level of BPA exposure is safe. This study adds weight to the argument that the chemical is hazardous to everyday people.

“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,” [Gail] Prins said. “I strongly believe that the U.S. should take measures to reduce the use of this chemical, since levels build over time.” [Live Science]

Canada must be feeling smug, since the country officially labeled the chemical as toxic earlier this month, making it easier to ban it and reduce environmental exposure to the chemical.

Related content:
Discoblog: Warning All Competitive Male Cyclists: Less than 5% of Your Sperm May Be Normal
80beats: Study Finds BPA in Store Receipts; Health Effects as Yet Unclear
80beats: BPA-Heart Disease Link Confirmed, But Levels in People Have Declined
80beats: BPA Won’t Leave Public-Health Conversatio–or Your Body
80beats: More Bad News on BPA: Linked to Heart Disease and Diabetes in Humans

Image: Flickr/SantaRosa OLD SCHOOL

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Brian Too

    No no no. You have it all wrong.

    You see lower quality sperm is a good thing. That way when we disappoint our parents, we have the perfect excuse. “I was the product of low quality sperm, what do you expect!”

    Lowered expectations. Improving the happiness & satisfaction levels of humanity for 200 years!

  • Min

    Heh. I wonder if we shall ever see a link from BPA to autism? There has been evidence that children born to older parents do indeed show a higher risk for autism. While this statistic can correlate to many reasons, it could also link to longer exposure to BPA therefore a decrease in sperm quality. Ubiquitous BPA exposure has been on the rise.. as has autism. Long shot, yes, but so are vaccinations – I think it’s worth looking into!

  • Jay Fox

    @Min:
    I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Endocrine disruptors may (probably, imo) do more harm down the road than we think.

    Recent studies have shown the biggest exposure threat today is the ubiquitous cash register receipt. There are products out there without the BPA, but they are not marked as such, so you never know what type of paper your receipt is on. Cashiers that I have talked to everywhere are ignorant of the issue, and have no idea what kind of paper they are handling all day. Some of these receipts are coated with more than a few percentage points of total weight in BPA, and it comes off rather easily.

    Men and women of child bearing years should only accept jobs as cashiers if the employer can prove that the receipts are BPA free.

    Employers should tread carefully. Get the BPA-free products now, lest some parent/employee sues over a “defective” baby. Think it won’t happen? In a jobless economy like today’s the poor folk are just looking for a reason to sue somebody, anybody, to get their ticket to the moneyed class. Don’t be that sucker.

    You know there’s a lawyer out there somewhere working on it.

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