High levels of workplace exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, has been linked to reduced sexual function in men, according to a Kaiser Permanente study.
The five-year study of 634 workers in China compared workers in factories where BPA is produced to workers who had no occupational exposure to the chemical. Researchers found that workers in BPA facilities had four times the risk for erectile dysfunction.
The Chinese workers exposed to BPA frequently reported having reduced libido. Tests showed they had about 50 times more BPA in their bodies than men who don’t work with the chemical.
For the study, researchers conducted spot air sampling, personal air sample monitoring and walk-through evaluations, reviewed factory records, interviewed workers about personal hygiene habits and use of PPE, and took urine samples to measure BPA exposure levels.
This is the first study looking at the effect of BPA on the human male reproductive system. Previous studies have shown that the chemical has a detrimental effect on the male productive systems of mice and rats.
“This study raises the question: Is there a safe level for BPA exposure and what is that level? More studies like this, which examine the effect of BPA on humans, are critically needed to help establish prevention strategies and regulatory processes,” says De-Kun Li, who led the study at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, CA.
BPA, used in everything from plastic bottles to tin can linings and dental sealants, has also been shown to leach into beverages and foods. Once inside the body, it mimics the female hormone estrogen.