The growing controversy over the health effects of bisphenol A, more commonly called BPA, is bound to heat up even more with the publication this week of a new study that links BPA exposure to erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men.
Over the course of five years, the federally funded study followed 634 male workers at four factories in China who were exposed to high levels of BPA, comparing their sexual health with that of male workers in other Chinese factories where BPA exposure was not part of the work environment.
Research Findings on BPA and Sexual Problems
The men working with BPA were four times as likely to experience erectile dysfunction and seven times as likely to have trouble ejaculating, according to the study, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction. Although the levels of BPA exposure experienced by the affected workers were 50 times what an average U.S. man faces each day, the study confirms a link between BPA exposure and sexual dysfunction in men and raises questions about whether lower levels of exposure to the widely used chemical might cause similar problems over time.
The study is the first to examine the effects of BPA on the reproductive systems of human males. Previous studies involving mice or rats have found sexual problems that researchers thought might have relevance for men, but critics have dismissed those findings because of the absence of human studies that would validate the research.
BPA is Everywhere
BPA, which was originally developed in the 1930s as a synthetic version of the female hormone estrogen, is now an industrial chemical that is used in thousands of common consumer products--from baby bottles to dental sealants and the lining inside cans of food. BPA exposure has become so widespread that a 2004 CDC study found it in the urine of an estimated 93 percent of the U.S. population--nearly every man, woman and child in the country.
FDA is Reviewing BPA Safety
Industry lobbyists and some scientists argue that BPA exposure for most people is far below the "safe" levels established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but those FDA standards were discredited because the agency relied on industry information and ignored more than 100 independent studies. Under orders from President Obama, the FDA is currently taking a fresh look at the issue and is expected to complete its review by the end of November .
Meanwhile, the federal government is increasing funding for BPA research--$30 million in grants over the next two years--to expand scientific and medical knowledge about BPA, and to find answers consumers can trust.
What Can You Do About BPA Exposure
If you don't want to wait for scientists to complete more BPA research, or prefer the better-safe-than-sorry approach to environmental health, you can follow these 8 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA right now.