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BPA Exposure Elevates the Risk of Infertility: Study

First Posted: Aug 01, 2013 09:59 AM EDT

A latest study reveals why some couples have difficulty conceiving. The study says that BPA (Bisphenol-A) exposure is a contributing factor in infertility.

Nearly 20 percent of infertile couples in the United States have unexplained reasons for their infertility. But this new study led by Catherine Racowsky, PhD, director of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), explains that BPA exposure disrupts the human egg maturation.

"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 statement.  "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."

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a man made carbon based synthetic compound that is used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. Since the beginning of 1970s, this compound has been in commercial use. It is used to make several consumer goods such as sports equipments, water bottles, CDs and DVDs.  It is also used for making water pipes. Epoxy resins that have BPA coatings on the inside are used in food and beverage cans.

There have been studies done earlier that linked BPA exposure to childhood asthma and childhood obesity.

To prove the association between BPA exposure and infertility, a randomized trial examined 352 eggs from 121 patients. In a lab setting, the eggs were exposed to different levels of BPA varying from 20 ng/ml, 200 ng/ml and 20 µg/ml. One egg from each patient that was not exposed to BPA was kept as a control.

On examining the eggs they noticed a drop in the percentage of eggs that matured and an increase in the number of eggs that degenerated. Apart from that there was an increase in spontaneous activation- an abnormal event where an egg mimics a fertilized egg  on being exposed to BPA chemical.

"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," Racowsky said.

The finding was documented in the journal Human Reproduction. 

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