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BPA Exposure During Pregnancy May Cause Long Lasting Harm to Male Children

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BPA-can-foodBPA Exposure in the Womb may harm Male Children

Exposure to environmental levels of the industrial chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, in the womb and early life may cause long-lasting harm to testicular function, according to a new study conducted in animals.

BPA Exposure may Efect Boys Testis Function

“We are seeing changes in the testis function of rats after exposure to BPA levels that are lower than what the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency consider safe exposure levels for humans,” said Benson Akingbemi, PhD, the study’s lead author and an associate professor at Auburn (Ala.) University. “This is concerning because large segments of the population, including pregnant and nursing mothers, are exposed to this chemical.”

Suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930s, concerns about the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008 after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, thus prompting some retailers to remove products containing it from their shelves. Many hard plastic bottles, canned food liners, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants contain BPA.

BPA acts in a similar manner as the female sex hormone estrogen and has been linked to female infertility. BPA is present in placenta and is able to pass from a mother into her breast milk.

BPA Male Health Study

In their study of the male, researchers saw harmful effects of BPA at the cellular level, specifically in Leydig cells. Leydig cells are cells in the testis that secrete testosterone, the main sex hormone that supports male fertility. After birth, Leydig cells gradually acquire the capacity for testosterone secretion, explained Akingbemi.

The process of testosterone secretion was decreased in male offspring of female rats that received BPA during pregnancy and while nursing. The mothers were fed BPA in olive oil at a dose of either 2.5 or 25 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight. Akingbemi said this is below the daily upper limit of safe exposure for humans, which federal guidelines currently put at 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. A control group of pregnant rats received olive oil without BPA. Male offspring, after weaning at 21 days of age, received no further exposure to BPA.

The investigators studied the development of Leydig cells in male offspring. The capacity for testosterone secretion was assessed at 21, 35 and 90 days of age. The amount of testosterone secreted per Leydig cell was found to be much lower in male offspring after early-life exposure to BPA than in offspring from control unexposed animals.

“Although BPA exposure stopped at 21 days of age, BPA’s effects on Leydig cells, which were seen immediately at the end of exposure and at 35 days, remained apparent until 90 days of age, when the rats reached adulthood,” said Akingbemi  “Therefore, the early life period is a sensitive window of exposure to BPA and exposure at this time may affect testis function into adulthood.”

Funding from this study came in part from the Graduate Research Scholars Program of Alabama EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Reference: Mendiola J, Jørgensen N, Andersson A-M, Calafat AM, Ye X, Redmon JB, et al. 2010. Are Environmental Levels of Bisphenol A Associated with Reproductive Function in Fertile Men? Environ Health Perspect :-. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002037

Last modified on Friday, 30 March 2012 16:00
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