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BPA Exposure Could Increase Risk of Infertility

Jul 31, 2013 08:37 AM EDT

Bisphenol-A (BPA) exposure could be a major factor involved in the unexplained infertility of some people, a new study reported.

About 20 percent of infertile couples in the U.S. have some unexplainable reason for their lack of ability to reproduce. A new study by Catherine Racowsky, PhD, director of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), recently showed that, exposure to BPA could have affected their reproduction system.

Bisphenol A or BPA is a chemical used in plastics and epoxy resins. The chemical has many applications and is found in water bottles, cups, impact resistant material, compact discs etc. Epoxy resin is used to coat metal products such as food cans, bottles and cups.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study that has shown that BPA has a direct effect on egg maturation in humans," said Dr. Racowsky in a press release. "Because exposure to BPA is so ubiquitous, patients and medical professionals should be aware that BPA may cause a significant disruption to the fundamentals of the human reproductive process and may play a role in unexplained infertility."

Previous research, conducted on rhesus monkeys, has shown that BPA can lead to birth defect and shortens reproductive lifespan.

The present study was based on 352 eggs from 121 patients. Researchers exposed these eggs to different levels of BPA in the laboratory; 20 ng/ml, 200 ng/ml and 20 µg/ml. one egg from each patient was kept as control.

Study results showed that eggs exposed to higher concentration of the chemical had higher percent of eggs degenerating and lower percent of eggs maturing. Also, eggs exposed to the chemical were more likely to activate spontaneously - an abnormal process where an unfertilized egg behaves like it has been fertilized.

Lower dose of BPA led to higher percent of egg maturation and lower incidence of spontaneous activation or degeneration.

Racowsky said, "Our data show that BPA exposure can dramatically inhibit egg maturation and adds to a growing body of evidence about the impact of BPA on human health. I would encourage further research to gain a greater understanding of the role BPA plays in infertility."

The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction.

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