Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common industrial chemical that has been used for 50 years to make certain plastics and resins. It is used in so many things that it now shows up in our water, our household dust and even in sand. It can be detected in urine samples, and has been found in more than 90 percent of Americans tested. It is even detected in cord blood samples of our newborn babies. This is shocking.
BPA is everywhere. Most of our exposure comes by eating foods or drinking beverages stored in plastic containers. It is also used in the lining of most canned foods and beverages. BPA is on store receipts, in compact discs, and used in industrial adhesives, medical devices and tooth sealants.
When foods or liquids are in direct contact with plastics that contain BPA, it migrates into the food or liquid and is consumed with it. For years it was assumed that this exposure was low enough to be safe. By 2008 studies that showed endocrine, reproductive and developmental effects came to public awareness. The FDA continues to take a conservative approach (meaning it does not want to go up against the chemical industry that produces and uses it), and this chemical has not yet been banned completely. However, it is no longer allowed to be used for baby bottles, sippy cups or infant formula packaging.
BPA has been linked to a variety of problems, including infertility, cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioral problems in children, and more. As with any harmful chemical exposure, fetuses, infants and young children are particularly sensitive. Their bodies are still developing, and they cannot eliminate toxins as efficiently.
How does BPA affect your fertility? Evidence is very strong showing that BPA and other similar chemicals may affect sperm quality and interfere with menstrual cycles and ovarian function. BPA is an endocrine disruptor. This means that it interferes with your bodyâ€™s endocrine system. It is similar enough to your own hormones to bind to the same receptors in your body. This disrupts your bodyâ€™s ability to function normally. Even very small amounts can have a very large effect on your physiology.
Researchers from Harvard said that exposure to BPA may play a role in about 20 percent of unexplained infertility. This was based on laboratory experiments exposing patientsâ€™ eggs to varying levels of BPA. They also found that many eggs matured abnormally, which could increase the odds of birth defects. Another study found that women with higher blood levels of BPA had fewer eggs that were fertilized with in vitro fertilization.
A Stanford study of women showed that higher levels of BPA in the blood early in pregnancy resulted in an 83 percent greater risk of miscarriage compared to those with the lowest levels.
Research shows that BPA exposure in early life can permanently affect the sperm-making cells in mice. It is unlikely that humans are any different. Studies show that higher levels of BPA in menâ€™s urine are linked to low sperm counts and poor sperm quality.
Despite the increasing evidence and obvious danger of how BPA and similar chemicals act on the body, there is still not a consensus that BPA can be directly blamed for health and fertility problems. But do you want to wait for this?
What can you do? Avoid BPA as much as possible. Avoid processed foods that have been stored in plastic or cans. Do not heat plastic containers that could contain BPA, in the microwave or by putting hot foods into them. Instead eat fresh, whole, unprocessed foods and store leftovers in glass containers. Use glass to store your beverages. The plastics with a 3 or 7 recycle code are most likely to have BPA in them. But all plastics have chemicals that may be harmful. Also avoid plastic wrap.
Avoid store receipts whenever possible. BPA can rub off on your hands or food items. Say no to receipts or keep them in an envelope, and never give them to a child. Wash your hands after handling a receipt, especially before preparing or eating food. And do not recycle receipts or other thermal paper, as it will end up in recycled paper products.
Because of public awareness of the dangers of BPA, manufactures are switching to other chemicals, such as bisphenol S (BPS). These substitutes are likely no safer, as they are also endocrine disruptors that mimic our own hormones. Do not be fooled by BPA-free products.