Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Questions about BPA

Bisphenol A is a very common ingredient in all sorts of plastics; 2-3 million tons of the stuff are manufactured every year. However, it can mimic the activity of various human hormones, and large quantities of BPA have been shown to cause all sorts of health effects, from thyroid problems to neurological disorders. In particular, it can mimic estrogen. This had led to questions about whether it effects male sexual and reproductive health. A new study has just been published covering the effects of BPA on factory workers:
Researchers focused on 634 male workers at four factories in China who were exposed to elevated levels of BPA. They followed the men over five years and compared their sexual health with that of male workers in other Chinese factories where BPA was not present. The men handling BPA were four times as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and seven times as likely to have difficulty with ejaculation, said De-Kun Li, a scientist at the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, which conducted the study with funds from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The US FDA has just announced a major review of existing studies of the effects of BPA, along with $30 million in new grants for additional studies. Canada and some European countries are also conducting reviews. Since it is very difficult to measure the effects of small levels of mildly poisonous substances, I do not expect definitive data on the effects of small amounts of BPA. I expect that with or without data we will see a tightening regulatory regime, justified by the studies that show bad effects from large doses, and a gradual phase-out of BPA in many products. Meanwhile, if you need an excuse....

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