Can BPA Harm Your Fertility?

Drinking bottled water
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BPA, or bisphenol-A, is a chemical found in some plastics and epoxy resins. If you look for the recycle number 7, you'll know that the plastic you're using contains BPA. BPA can also be found in some dental sealants, canned food linings, pre-2012 baby bottles, and medical devices.

The media frequently reports on concerns over BPA, and you can find BPA-free water bottles for sale in most sporting goods stores. Are these BPA-free products worth it? Is BPA dangerous for your health?

Estrogen and BPA

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that have an effect on the hormones in our bodies, either by interfering with how they work in the body or by mimicking the hormones in the body.

BPA mimics estrogen, an important reproductive hormone. While estrogen is often thought of as the female hormone, the hormone is important for both men and women.

BPA acts like a weak estrogen in the body, and at least in animal studies, it has been found to have an effect even at low levels. Research in 2009 found that when animals are exposed to BPA at key developmental stages, the risk of negative effect is higher. This includes the fetal stage and animal infant stage.

BPA in Humans

We don't really know if the animal studies reflect how humans will react to BPA levels.

Some small studies have found a possible link between BPA and fertility. In one study published in 2011, men with detectable levels of BPA in their urine were three times as likely to have lower sperm concentration and sperm vitality, more than four times likely to have lower sperm counts, and twice as likely to have lower sperm motility (how well the sperm swim). This study mainly concentrated on men who work with BPA in factories, and so it's unclear how this would relate to men who did not work with BPA in a work setting.

In a small study that looked at women going through IVF, researchers found that the higher the BPA levels, the lower the peak estradiol levels were. They also found that fewer eggs were retrieved in women who had higher levels of BPA.

Because these studies have been small in size, however, it's unclear how much impact BPA really may have on fertility and human health.

Avoiding BPA

Some studies back in 2003-2004 found that 90% of the population has detectable levels of BPA in their urine. Considering that 88% of the population does not deal with infertility, the evidence doesn't seem to show a direct connection between BPA and infertility.

However, given that some preliminary studies have found an impact on fertility levels, it's probably best to avoid BPAs when possible.

The FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups in 2012. Most major sports water bottle manufacturers switched to producing BPA-free bottles at that time as well. Look products marked BPA-free and replace older items.

Some ways you can lower your exposure:

  • Reduce the amount of canned foods you use. Instead, try to buy food that comes in glass jars (or fresh or frozen foods.)
  • Avoid cooking your food in plastic containers, as you might do when microwaving. Use glass instead.
  • Avoid plastic food containers, water bottles, and other plastic bottles that have the recycle number 7 on them. These are likely to contain BPA unless labeled as BPA-free.
  • Talk to your dentist about BPA-free fillings.
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Article Sources

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  3. Bloom MS, Kim D, Vom Saal FS, et al. Bisphenol A exposure reduces the estradiol response to gonadotropin stimulation during in vitro fertilizationFertil Steril. 2011;96(3):672–677.e2. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.06.063

  4. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Bisphenol A (BPA). Updated May 23, 2019.

  5. National Infertility Association. Who has infertility?