Occupational exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) is associated with erectile dysfunction, loss of sexual desire and ejaculation difficulties, according to US and Chinese scientists. Their report is one of the first to show this negative association in humans. Numerous earlier studies had done so in animals.
BPA is chemically similar to estrogen. It is used to produce polycarbonate plastics, and can be found in baby bottles, water bottles and cans used to package food and beverages.
The chemical leaches from these products into food, and can be detected in the urine of nearly every American.
In animal studies, BPA had been associated with infertility, early onset of puberty, weight gain, cancer and diabetes.
Last summer, the FDA issued a provisional ruling that BPA is safe at levels found in the US population. That ruling was disputed by its own advisory panel. Many places including Canada have banned BPA from baby bottles.
De-Kun Li and colleagues studied 634 Chinese factory workers. Of these, 230 were exposed to high levels of BPA on the job, and 404 had no such occupational exposure.
The scientists measured BPA levels in the air and the worker’s food and in their urine as well. At the same time, they surveyed workers about sexual experiences.
Workers with occupational exposure to BPA had more than 4 times the risk of erectile dysfunction, were 4 times more likely to report low sexual desire, and were 7 times more likely to experience ejaculation difficulties. The risk of these problems increased with urinary BPA concentrations.
The factory workers’ urinary BPA levels were about 50 times higher than that found in US males.
“Critics dismissed the animal studies, saying, ‘Show us the human studies,'” Li told the Los Angeles Times. “Now we have a human study and this can’t be dismissed,” he added.
The study appears in Human Reproduction.