Three strikes and you're out unfortunately does not seem to hold true for the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Yet another study has now linked it to harmful bodily effects, further adding to an already long list. It seems that men who have high levels of the chemical in their urine experience lower sperm quality than men without much BPA in their systems. Low sperm quality covers everything from low sperm count to motility problems to defects that might reduce the chances that the sperm will be able to reach and penetrate an egg -- all of which means these men could be at higher risk for infertility.
This five-year study, performed by scientists at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, found that the higher the levels of exposure to BPA, the worse the quality of the semen. These results were not much of a surprise since earlier research on animals showed similar outcomes, but this was the first study to focus on BPA and sperm quality in people.
The sample included 218 men employed in a factory in China, only some of whom were exposed to BPA at work. The men with higher amounts of BPA in their urine had between two and four times the frequency of poor semen quality as compared to the men with no or low levels of BPA present.
The study clearly connects the dots between BPA and its effect on adult male sperm. Who knows how years of exposure, even at the low levels most of us encounter, will damage our bodies in the long term or whether any of these consequences are reversible?
Some manufacturers, particularly of baby products such as bottles, have been proactive and stopped using BPA in their wares. But many more are still using the chemical, and it consistently shows up in such items as plastic containers, the lining of canned foods, and paper coatings. And it is clearly leaching into our bodies: The Environmental Protection Agency recently proclaimed that BPA is released into the environment at a rate of more than one million pounds per year.
Yet according to the FDA, more study is still necessary on BPA to determine whether or not it's unsafe. The European Union and Canada, however, feel that there have indeed been enough studies already and have placed BPA on a toxic chemical list and banned its use in baby bottles and infant food packaging. In fact, literally hundreds of studies have shown BPA to be dangerous, but the FDA ignores those studies and relies on studies funded by the plastics industry to establish its safety. Gee, I wonder if there might be a conflict of interest there?
Years of research on animal subjects have confirmed that BPA is a hormone disruptor that can negatively impact the male reproductive organs such as the epididymis and the testes. Even at very low levels of exposure, the health effects are noticeable. Animal studies have shown an association between BPA and thyroid problems, obesity, and liver troubles.
In humans, sperm counts have been declining around much of the world for the past 50 years. It's entirely possible that at least part of the cause could be our exposure to BPA and other chemicals that interfere with the body's natural hormone systems. Chances are good that most of us have some detectable level of BPA in our bodies if we were to get tested.
We already know that BPA has been linked to breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, birth defects, and heart disease through prior research. The same scientists who conducted the present study demonstrated just over a year ago that high doses of BPA cause erectile dysfunction and significant sexual issues in men. Of 634 men working in factories in China, 230 had significant levels of BPA exposure, estimated at 50 times that of the average American man. As compared to the other 404 workers with no on-the-job BPA exposure, the first group experienced a 400% increase in erection difficulty, a 400% decrease in sexual desire and satisfaction, and a 700% increase in ejaculation problems.
It's hard to believe the FDA would continue to authorize something that caused erectile dysfunction. I mean that's so unmanly! Cancer, yes. Heart disease, yes. But erectile dysfunction, never! No male doctor would allow that to stand. Makes you wonder if it's coincidence that the FDA is now run by a woman…or is it revenge? Just kidding.
Since the United States government does not seem inclined to do anything to protect its citizens from the dangers that lurk in the packaging of our foods, you might want to take matters into our own hands. (And if you're not a baby, you have the same problem throughout the rest of the world.) Don't wait for BPA to be banned; instead, limit use of plastic bottles containing BPA and canned foods with plastic linings to minimize exposure to this hazardous chemical as much as possible. And since you're going to be exposed to some level of BPA no matter what you do, you might want to consider a regular detox program to remove as much of the toxin as possible even as it accumulates in your body…day by day, week by week, year by year.