Health Buzz: BPA Linked to Sperm Problems

Plus, how to reduce your exposure to bisphenol A.

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Bisphenol A, or BPA, May Hurt Sperm

Exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in everything from plastic bottles to tin cans, may harm sperm, suggests a study of about 200 Chinese factory workers. The five-year study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, compared men who were directly exposed to the chemical on the job to men who were not; it found that those with high levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to have poor semen quality—including low sperm concentration and issues with sperm mobility—than those who had low levels of BPA in their urine, NPR reports. Although previous studies have linked BPA to reproductive problems in male rats, this study is among the first to suggest a negative effect on sperm in humans, according to a press release from Kaiser Permanente, which conducted the study. However, the workers in the study were exposed to much higher BPA levels than the average American, according to NPR, and it's unclear if the impact on sperm would affect their fertility. Still, "The general public should probably try to avoid exposure to BPA as much as they can," De-Kun Li, an epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanante's Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., told the Washington Post. (Li and colleagues have published two similar studies linking BPA to sexual problems in men.)

BPA's potentially detrimental effects extend beyond sperm. In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voiced concern about its adverse effects, especially on fetuses, infants, and young children. A 2008 study even linked the chemical to diabetes and heart disease. Here are some good rules of thumb for reducing your exposure to BPA, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes.

From: 5 Ways to Keep BPA Out of Your Food

1. Buy your tomato sauce in glass jars. Canned tomato sauce is likely to have higher levels of BPA because the high acidity of the tomatoes causes more of the chemical to leach from the lining of the can. Think beyond plain tomato sauce to any canned pasta—like ravioli and those fun-looking kids' meals.

2. Consume frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned. In addition to their BPA-free benefit, fresh and frozen produce usually have more nutrients, which often get lost in the process of canning. Eden Foods does offer canned beans that are BPA-free.

3. Purchase beverages in plastic or glass bottles. Canned soda and juice often contain some BPA. You don't need to worry, though, about disposable plastic water bottles. Most don't contain bisphenol A, and those that do are usually marked on the bottom with a number 7 recycling code.

4. Use powdered infant formula instead of ready-to-serve liquid. A separate assessment from the Environmental Working Group found that liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered brands.

5. Think in terms of moderation. You don't need to avoid all canned foods. Just consult the chart below and follow a sensible approach, eating less of those foods that are high in BPA. Click here for the full report on canned foods.

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