BPA exposure and semen quality

November 17, 2010 by  

The controversial BPA aka bisphenol A makes the headlines again. And this time it is the men that should pay attention. A new study recently published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found strong correlations between BPA levels in the urine and sperm quality in male humans.

If you may remember, BPA is a compound used in the manufacture of certain types of plastics. Unfortunately, it leaches out from the plastic products into our food and drink.

The study looked at factory workers in China exposed to high levels of BPA in their job. This occupation exposure to BPA was measurable by urinalysis and was linked to poor semen quality, as indicated by low sperm count and decreased motility. These two properties of semen strongly determine the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg. In other words, BPA exposure impacts a man’s fertility and reproductive potential.

According to study author Dr. De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland.

“The higher the BPA exposure, the worse the semen quality. The findings add more weight to the evidence about the effects of BPA on sperm quality.”

BPA remains a controversial chemical and health agencies worldwide are divided in their stand on this chemical. Only two years ago, US health regulators did not believe that BPA may be dangerous, citing lack of scientific evidence as its basis. This year, the FDA finally admitted that the BPA may have some “potential health concerns.” Several American states have banned the chemical from baby products. Canada, however, is in the front line when it comes to eradicating BPA. Canadian health authorities recently placed BPA on its list of toxic (thus banned) chemicals). In Europe, BPA use is still widespread and no legislation is in place to regulate it.

Researchers believe that BPA is an endocrine-disrupting substance that plays havoc with our hormones, including sex hormones. Endocrine disruptors are also called “gender-bender” chemicals.

According to Dr. Laura V. Vandenberg of Tufts University in Boston:

“This study clearly shows that BPA exposures adversely affect men in a serious way: by influencing their semen quality, which could have obvious impacts on their ability to have children… [It] also shows that adult men are sensitive to BPA, and even small amounts of the chemical can have pretty drastic effects. What remains to be seen is whether the effects of BPA on semen quality are permanent after the kinds of low, chronic exposures that most adults experience.”

There are easy ways of protecting yourself and your family from BPA exposure.

Check out:

More bad news about BPA

September 22, 2010 by  

The story of BPA aka bisphenol A is not yet over. In fact, researchers believe that what we currently know about this compound is just the tip of the iceberg. As you may recall, BPA is a compound used in the manufacture of plastics. It is also an endocrine disrupting compound and micmics estrogen. BPA has been linked to a wide range of health problems from cardiovascular disease, to impaired fertility, neurological and developmental disorders and cancer.

According to University of Missouri researcher Dr. Julia Taylor:

“For years, BPA manufacturers have argued that BPA is safe and have denied the validity of more than 200 studies that showed adverse health effects in animals due to exposure to very low doses of BPA. We know that BPA leaches out of products that contain it, and that it acts like estrogen in the body.”

A recent study published in NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives shows that metabolism of BPA is similar in female humans, female monkeys, and female mice and BPA effects on the animals are grounds for major concern. According to study author Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri:

“This study provides convincing evidence that BPA is dangerous to our health at current levels of human exposure. The new results clearly demonstrate that rodent data on the health effects of BPA are relevant to predictions regarding the health effects of human exposure to BPA. Further evidence of human harm should not be required for regulatory action to reduce human exposure to BPA.”

Furthermore, human exposure to BPA seems to higher than previously thought. It has always been assumed that BPA comes from the plastics that we use in our household. However, the current study results show that these sources alone cannot account for the amount of BPA we are exposed to, indicating that there are unidentified sources of contamination in our environment. The researchers, thus, are calling for “governmental agencies to require the chemical industry to identify all products that contain BPA.

Dr. Pat Hunt, co-author of the study, adds:

“We’ve assumed we’re getting BPA from the ingestion of contaminated food and beverages. This indicates there must be a lot of other ways in which we’re exposed to this chemical and we’re probably exposed to much higher levels than we have assumed.”

BPA linked to male sexual dysfunction and infertility

June 1, 2010 by  

BPA aka bisphenol A is in the headlines again but this time it has nothing to do with baby bottles and formulas. It is more about where babies come from – male fertility.

The research institute Kaiser Permanente reports that increased BPA levels in the urine of men can mean decreased sexual function that would desire, erectile dysfunction, and lower semen strength.

Why aren’t we surprised? Because BPA is quite known to be a human endocrine disrupter that creates havoc with hormones – a gender bender chemical, you might say.

The Kaiser Permanente researchers conducted a 5-year study of 427 factory workers in China. One group of workers employed as packagers, technical supervisors, laboratory technicians and maintenance workers in manufacturing facilities where BPA is used as an ingredient, the other group did not. The results showed significantly higher levels of BPA in BPA manufacturing facilities and these levels are correlated to sexual dysfunction.

According to study lead author Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

“Because the BPA levels in this study were very high, more research needs to be done to see how low a level of BPA exposure may have effects on our reproductive system. This study raises the question: Is there a safe level for BPA exposure, and what is that level? More studies like this, which examine the effect of BPA on humans, are critically needed to help establish prevention strategies and regulatory policies.”

Although this has been previously observed in animal studies, this is supposedly the first study in humans to link BPA levels in the urine with sexual dysfunction

The levels measured were 50 times higher than what were measured in men in the general US population, indicating very high exposure. However, there is evidence that the endocrine disruption even occurs at low levels of long-term exposure.

Dr. Li continues to explain:

“This is the first human study to show that high urine BPA is associated with lower male sexual function. Also, even among men exposed to BPA from only environmental sources (no occupational exposure and with average BPA level lower than the average observed in the American population), there were indications of an increased risk of sexual dysfunction.”

Although BPA is slowly being phased out in the manufacturing of plastics for food packaging, it is still being used in the manufacture of non-food related plastics. Workers in these factories are exposed to high amounts of this chemical each day.

FDA changes its tune about BPA

March 17, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

The story of BPA aka bisphenol A takes an unexpected yet welcome turn last Janaury when no less than the US FDA admitted that BPA may be bad you and for your family.

Yes, this is the same FDA that in October 2008 issued the following statement:

“Consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.

In “Update on Bisphenol A (BPA) for Use in Food: January 2010”, the US FDA expressed some “concerns” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children. Working together with the National Toxicology Program, FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, the regulatory body is conducting studies to further clarify questions about the health risks of BPA. In the meantime, the FDA is

The European Food Safety Authority which was also at first skeptical about the BPA threat also issued an update on this issue. In particular, EFSA gives some conservative estimates of BPA exposure through diet in the table below.

Table 1. Conservative estimates of total dietary exposure to bisphenol A at different ages


Age of consumer Food/Beverages consumed Dietary exposure to BPA based on conservative migration value in microgram/kg bw/day  (Figures in parenthesis represent exposure based on typical migration value)
3 month infant Breast milk only 0.2
3 month infant Infant formula fed with glass or non-PC bottle 2.3
3 month infant Infant formula fed with PC bottle 11* (4#)
6 month infant Infant formula fed with PC bottle and commercial foods/beverages 13* (8.3#)
1.5 year-old child 2 kg commercial foods/beverages 5.3
Adult 3 kg commercial foods/beverages 1.5


*  Based on the upper value of 50 microgrammes BPA/litre of infant formula

#  Based on the typical value of 10 microgrammes BPA/litre of infant formula

About BPA

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical widely used in the manufacture of plastics. It is present in many hard plastic bottles and in food packaging, particularly metal-based food containers and beverage cans. BPA has been shown to leach out of food containers into the food and drinks we consume. BPA is thought to be potentially carcinogenic, endocrine-disruptive, and has been associated with a wide range of diseases.

BPA Resources

Additional resources on BPA:

Food ingredients and packaging: BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) Information for Parents from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Full Update on Bisphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications: January 2010

Tips to avoid BPA exposure by the Environmental Working Group

Know your carcinogens: the latest on BPA

November 18, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Resource Post for November

Ever since it hit the news late last year, bisphenol A (BPA) is getting more and more notorious. The latest development in the BPA story is this – researchers at the University of Cincinnati reported that exposure to BPA may actually reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments among cancer patients.

Yet, plastic manufacturers all over are still using it in their polymerization process. And food manufacturers are using plastics with BPA in their packaging.

According to a report of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

“BPA is a high production volume chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins… The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet…BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”

According to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU)

“BPA may cause changes in cells in breasts, the uterus, and the prostate which can increase risk of cancers. In addition, BPA has been associated with increases in developmental disorders of the brain and nervous system in animals. These developmental disorders in animals are like problems such as ADHD (attention deficit hyper-reactivity disorder) in humans.”

Let us back track a bit about what happened since last year.

November 2007
An article in Toxicology Letters (online edition) showed that BPA in polycarbonate bottles are leaching out of the containers into the drinks. The article goes on to say that BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that mimics the hormone estrogen.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has detected BPA in infant formulas. 4 out of the top 5 companies questioned acknowledged using BPA in their packaging.

December 2007
Nalgene polycarbonate bottles were taken off the shelves in Canada.

April 2008
Canada announces its plans to ban BPA-containing bottles.

July 2008
European Food Safety Authority’s AFC Panel declared human BPA exposure is too low to cause any real harm. According to the panel’s report, the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA out of the body.

September 3, 2008
The NTP reported the following concerns about BPA:

  • “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, babies, and children at the current levels of exposure.
  • “minimal concern” for effects on breast development and early onset of puberty in females
  • “negligible concern” that exposure of pregnant women to BPA will result in damage to the unborn child.
  • “minimal concern” BPA exposure will cause reproductive effects in workers exposed to higher BPA levels in their place of work but “negligible concern” that to adults exposed to BPA during normal daily activities

September 17, 2008
Researchers at the University of Exeter (UK) reported detecting BPA in the urine of a large portion of a test group of 1455 people. In addition, high levels of BPA in the urine were associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and kidney problems.

October 8, 2008
The University of Cincinnati reports about BPA’s effect on chemotherapy. In the study, BPA seems to mimic estrogen’s action on cancer cells – which is the induction of proteins that can protect the cancer cells from the effects of chemotherapy agents.

October 10, 2008
The American states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, through their attorney generals officially asked in writing 11 manufacturers to eliminate BPA from milk formula packaging as well from baby bottles.

October 2008
This study demonstrated that when pregnant mice were exposed to low-dose BPA, changes in the neurobehavioral development of the offsprings were observed.

Another study in mice should that BPA exposure during pregnancy altered the cellular structure of the breasts.

October 28, 2008
Based on a review by a subcommittee, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) stated that

“consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.”

In addition, the US FDA thinks the Canadian restrictions on BPA are “out of an abundance of caution.

Although the US FDA tries to reassure the public’s concerns about BPA, concerns about BPA is increasing and this latest findings on chemotherapy resistance “provide considerable support to the accumulating evidence that BPA is hazardous to human health.”

So how do you protect yourself from the potential hazards of BPA?

For your safety, PEHSU gives the following advice:


Photo credits: stock.xchng

Protecting yourself and your family from BPA

October 1, 2008 by  



















Ever since the bad news about bisphenol A (BPA) broke, I have become more and more wary of plastics. Unfortunately, I’ve found out that we can’t seem to do without plastic in our daily lives. If I have to get rid of all the plastic stuff at home, my kitchen would be more than half-empty. So I decided to tackle BPA head on and try to know as much as I can about the enemy. If you remember, BPA is used in the manufacture of plastic and has been found to leach out of plastic containers into our food and drinks. The latest reports indicate that BPA is linked to a lot of health problems ranging from cancer, behavioural and neurological disorders in children and cardiovascular diseases. In this post, I share with you what I know about BPA and the ways to avoid it.

Know your plastics

According to wikipedia, there are 7 classes of plastics used as packaging. If you turn over your plastic cup, you will see a triangular recycling symbol formed by 3 bent arrows. At the center of the symbol is a number and below the symbol are letters. The number at the center is the plastic class type and the letters are usually abbreviations of the plastic names.

I’ve learned that not all plastics contain BPA. The plastics we should pay attention to are plastic Type 3 and plastic Type 7. Type 3 is polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated as PVC or C while Type 7 is polycarbonate and therefore identified as PC but also sometimes with the letter O – short for “other”. All Type 3 and most of Type 7 used BPA during their polymerization process.

The other classes of plastics do not use BPA during manufacturing and can therefore be considered BPA-free. So next time you buy a baby bottle or a sippy cup, you know what to look for.

Look at your food packaging

Not all packaging are marked with plastic symbols. Some cans are lined with epoxy resin that contains BPA. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) gave some recommendations with regards to packaging, as follows:

  • Use fresh or frozen rather than canned food.
  • Drink soda contained in BPA-free polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. PET bottles are non-reusable but easily recyclable.
  • Plastic packaging materials are sometimes not labelled. If you are sure of the plastic type, go for foodstuff packed in aseptic cardboard boxes.

Watch out what you do with plastics in the kitchen

  • Do not watch BPA-containing plasticware in the dishwasher.
  • Do not place hot hotwater inside plasticware.
  • Do not use BPA-containing plasticware in the microwave over.
  • Check your shrink wraps and freezer bags. The plastic type should be on the packaging.
  • Better still, get rid of all Type 3 and Type 7 plastics from your kitchen. Other types of plastics are simply safer.

Download this helpful brochure from CSPI!

Is your plastic bottle making you (and your heart) sick?

September 17, 2008 by  

This chemical attracted attention last year when Nalgene plastic bottles were taken off the shelves in Canada. The chemical is called bisphenol A or BPA and it is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.

BPA is “one of the world’s highest production-volume chemicals, with more than 2 million metric tons produced worldwide in 2003 and annual increase in demand of 6% to 10% annually.”

The study that triggered the controversy showed that significant amounts of BPA are leaching from hard plastic bottles such as Nalgene. Slowly, more stories came out. BPA is found not only Nalgene bottles but in other plastic products as well, such as plastic food packaging, plastic-lined cans, plastic dental braces, and take note – plastic baby bottles.

Health authorities were at first sceptical and claimed that the amount of BPA that leaches from the plastic bottles are so low that they cannot have any adverse effects on health. However, one study detected BPA in the urine of 92.6% of 2,517 participants aged 6 years old and older. Still, consumer groups continued to raise their concerns such as this warning from Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

In May this year, “leaders of the Committee on Energy and Commerce threatened to subpoena the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for records the agency used in determining that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was safe for use in making infant formula liners and other products intended for infants and children“, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

Earlier this month, a report by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health finally acknowledged that there are certain health “concerns” linked to BPA exposure.

So what does BPA do?

  • According to this study published in Toxicology Letters, BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that “mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons.”
  • According to the NTP report dated September 3, 2008, BPA exposure may be linked to prostate and brain cancer, behavioral problems in fetuses, infants and children, early onset of puberty in young girls, and reproductive disorders in workers working with BPA.
  • According to another article published this week in JAMA, high BPA levels may be linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

So how can we protect ourselves from BPA? The CSPI gives the following recommendations:

  • Buy canned goods only if you are sure the cans linings are BPA-free.
  • Shift to frozen rather than canned food.
  • Drink soda from non-reusable, easily recyclable BPA-free polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.
  • For kids, avoid using plastic formula bottles and sippy cups with polycarbonate plastic.
  • Shift to food products packed in aseptic cardboard boxes.
  • Avoid using hard plastics with food at home. Use glass and porcelain instead.

Cancer and Your Water Bottle

May 14, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

water-bottle.jpgI’ve been vaguely reading the hype regarding water bottles and a potential cancer link. Recently I decided to do some digging into the topic.

Here’s what I found:

BPA is the chemical causing the concern.

Bisphenol A is used to make hard clear water bottles (not the opaque ones), baby bottles, five-gallon water bottles and it is used to line the inside of some food cans.

Identifying BPA plastic containers:

If you pick up a plastic container it will have a triangle with a number in it. This identifies the type of plastic.

The Green Guide lists all plastics and their correlating recycling numbers (1-7), including those which may cause or are listed as potential carcinogens through the leaching out of chemicals.

By the way, those listed to avoid are:

#3 PVC Polyvinyl chloride. Used for clear cling wraps.
#6 PS Extruded polystyrene. Used to make Styrofoam.


#7 PC Polycarbonate which contains BPA.

Recent concerns regarding BPA:

  • “National Toxicology Program, an office within the National Institutes of Health, acknowledged in a draft report that the chemical might cause cancer and other serious disorders. The chemical mimics estrogen in the human body, scientists say.” Source: The Washington Post.The report also indicates the chemical BPA may have effects on fetuses, infants and children at current exposure levels.
  • Per the May 2008 issue of Consumer Reports: In 2005, 109 of 119 recent research studies showed harmful effects from low level exposure of BPA. The 11 studies which found no harm were conducted by chemical companies. The FDA response was to claim no indication of safety concerns and was based on two chemical company research results.
  • Degradation of the plastic increases leaching of BPA. Degradation is caused by heat, and chemicals, and acidic materials (like apple juice). Avoid sun exposure, and utilizing the dishwashers.

In the meantime, it is recommended that consumers utilize a stainless steel water bottle, not unlike this one that supports breast cancer, that is available on Amazon.com for less than six dollars.

Breast Cancer Awareness Stainless Steel Water Bottle with hiking clip 16 Oz. (450ml) - White Bottle, Pink Ribbon

If you use a stainless steel bottle, check to be sure the stainless steel bottle doesn’t have a plastic epoxy coating inside.

Or per recommendations from Consumer Reports, use plastic bottles that are considered safe: those without the #7 PC markings or those with the ” recycling codes 1 (PET) or 2 (HDPE), and polypropylene, 5 (PP). ”

Or stick to glass containers.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.