A controversial chemical used for decades in the mass production of food containers and baby bottles has been linked to male infertility for the first time.
Bisphenol-A (BPA), known as the “gender bending” chemical because of its connection to male impotence, has now been shown to decrease sperm mobility and quality.
The findings are likely to increase pressure on governments around the world to follow Canada and ban the substance from our shelves.
BPA is used widely to make plastic harder and watertight tin cans.
It is found in most food and drink cans – including tins of infant formula milk – plastic food containers, and the casings of mobile phones, and other electronic goods.
It is also used in baby bottles though this is slowly being phased out.
BPA has been the subject of intense research as it is a known endocrine disrupter which in large quantities interferes with the release of hormones.
Earlier studies have linked it to low sex drive, impotence and DNA damage in sperm.
Now a new five year study claims to have found a link between levels of BPA in the blood and male fertility.
The study involved 130 Chinese factory employees who worked directly with materials containing BPA and 88 workers who didn’t handle it and whose exposure was similar to that of typical western men.
Low sperm counts were found in workers who had detectable levels of bisphenol-A in their urine. Poor sperm quality was two to four times more prevalent among these men than among workers whose urine showed no sign of BPA.
The lowest sperm counts were in men with the highest levels of BPA.
BPA in urine was linked with lower-quality semen even in men who didn’t work with the chemical, although their average BPA levels were much lower than in the other group.
It comes just months after Professor David Melzer from Exeter University called for an urgent review into the safety of bisphenol A (BPA ).
The leading academic also urged manufacturers to cut down on BPA in food packaging and containers.
He told a briefing at the Royal Institution in London: ‘Millions of pounds of this compound are being produced every day, but we still don’t know how it gets into humans.
‘I think small effects for large numbers of people matter and it’s reasonable that a tiny proportion of the costs of BPA should be put to human drug trial-type assessments to settle once and for all whether this compound is bio-active in humans.