Plastic Bottle Chemical Tied to Male Infertility

It is unclear exactly how BPA would cause sexual dysfunction, according to Dr. Michele Marcus, a professor and interim chair in the department of epidemiology and environmental health at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. One possible explanation, she said, is that BPA, a known endocrine disruptor, can mimic estrogen and block some effects of testosterone.

Avoiding BPA 'Would Be My Advice,' Doctor Says

Because his study does not provide answers for the average person looking to know if BPA will do him or her harm, Li said any steps would be strictly precautionary.

"It's certainly based on everybody's risk tolerance level," he said, adding that avoiding BPA "would be my advice. It's unlikely the regulatory agencies will do anything yet, because they would like to see the evidence from human studies."

"If there's credible evidence of the potential of harm, why not look for a safer alternative?" said Kathy Gerwig, vice president for workplace safety and environmental stewardship officer at Kaiser Permanente.

Gerwig said that while BPA has not been proven harmful, there were steps consumers could take if they wanted to reduce their BPA exposure.

"If you're going to buy a rigid plastic bottle, look for one that is BPA-free," she said.

Second, Gerwig recommended avoiding canned foods, which contain BPA in the linings, something she said would be advantageous because it promoted eating fresh foods.

Third, she said, "It's a smart decision to stay away from heating foods in the microwave in plastics."

Industrial Scale

Given the high levels of BPA industrial workers were exposed to in the study, many may be tempted to dismiss the much lower levels of exposure the average person experiences.

But paradoxically, lower levels may be more harmful, explained Dr. David Ozonoff, a professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health.

"These are hormone-like chemicals, and your body is used to responding to hormones at really low levels," he said.

He compared it to two friends in a crowded bar trying to speak, who cannot do so because of the noise. In those circumstances, the noise may be cancelled out, while in a quieter room, that message may be heard and listened to.

For a signal that has the potential to be disruptive, said Ozonoff, a signal that can be "heard" can be more dangerous than a large number of signals that can be dismissed as static.

"That's one of those things that we worry about," he said.

Ozonoff said the study is still open to interpretation, and further studies will need to be done for any conclusions to be drawn about the potential harmfulness of BPA.

However, he concluded, "There's nothing about this that should give any comfort to someone that thinks BPA is OK."

Michelle Schlief and Cari Nierenberg contributed reporting.

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