Commentary

Opinion: Ban the Plastic Poison - Men's Health

A chemical that is commonly found in plastic bottles and cans of food could be harming men’s health. A new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that increased levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in the body were associated with serious effects on the male reproductive system. The results are startling, particularly because this is one of the first studies documenting adverse effects in humans, not just in animals.

Researchers examined Chinese men exposed to BPA in the workplace and found that higher levels of BPA in the body were associated with decreased sperm concentration and vitality, decreased total sperm count, and decreased sperm motility.

A growing body of evidence links BPA to a variety of harmful health effects such as cancer, diabetes, behavioral disorders, and early puberty. But up until now, the majority of research has been conducted in animals. Now we have evidence of a link between BPA exposure and adverse health effects in humans.

Researchers of the study suggest staying away from BPA as much as possible. Their words of caution come on the basis that problems like cancer could take decades to develop. Sperm production only takes 90 days. You have to wonder what else BPA is doing that hasn’t been detected yet.

It is important to note that BPA is already found in the bodies of 93 percent of Americans—both men and women. We may not yet know the long-term impact of exposure to BPA, but we do know that BPA acts as an endocrine disruptor. This means it acts like estrogen in the body and interferes with how hormones work. We also know that infants and children, because of their early stages of development and smaller size, are extremely vulnerable to the effects of hormone disruptors. If high levels of BPA are associated with these negative effects on the male reproductive system in adults, we can only assume the impact would be even worse in children.

This is why the presence of BPA in thousands of consumer products like food and beverage containers is concerning. As science unravels more of the secrets of BPA, we are beginning to learn that nothing positive comes from having it in our bodies.

Major companies, like Nalgene and Eden Valley Organic Foods, have already started to phase BPA out of some products. Recognizing the particular harm that BPA may have on infants and children, major baby food, formula, and baby bottle manufacturers offer either some BPA-free alternative or have completely stopped its use altogether. Even retailers have taken action and sell BPA-free baby bottles and cups. Additionally, seven states have already enacted laws banning BPA from children’s products.

We need to start with protecting infants and kids first. This is why I plan to introduce an amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 that would ban BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups, and baby food and infant formula containers. This new study should be a warning to move quickly. At the very least, we can ban BPA from children’s products. This is a simple start. It’s about protecting the health of the American people, starting with our most vulnerable consumers—infants and children.

For more about the dangers of BPA, check out this excerpt of The New American Diet.

And check out these tips on how to cut back on your BPA consumption.