This has nothing to do with orthopedic surgery. However, as a father, I feel that this is relevant to most of my patients. So here goes!
Already banned in baby products, the industrial compound BPA also might be a threat to women’s reproductive health.
The New York Times reported that “the accumulating research (is causing) rising concern among scientists that childhood exposure to BPA may contribute to female infertility, and that adult exposure may result in a shorter reproductive life span.”
The degree of the danger is unknown, as numerous efforts to study BPA effects have produced mixed results. Lifestyle, heredity and exposure to other chemicals also might be responsible for the symptoms observed in research subjects. However, most medical authorities believe there is enough evidence to link the compound with ovarian damage.
University of Illinois bioscientist Jodi Flaws injected BPA into young, female mice for a month. She observed that the mice developed fewer, and smaller, follicles in their ovaries. They had insufficient levels of estradiol, a sex hormone necessary for reproductive development. Flaws concluded that BPA inhibits the ability of enzymes to produce the hormone.
Her research was confirmed in another study, which found that the production of eggs in BPA-treated mice ended when the animals were young. The same results have been detected in sheep, monkeys and people.
Patricia Hunt, a genetics professor at Washington State University, gave BPA to rhesus monkeys while the animals were pregnant. She reported that the compound altered the follicles in the same way it had affected rodents in earlier studies. According to Hunt, there is no reason to expect a different outcome in humans.
Flaws called BPA an “ovarian toxicant,” an opinion shared by researchers whose findings appeared in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Harvard University researchers studied women at in-vitro fertilization clinics, to find out how BPA affected them. The compound was detected in the urine of 80 percent of the young mothers. Women with the highest levels of BPA had the lowest number of follicles, resulting in the production of fewer fertile eggs. In many cases, the subjects’ follicular fluid also tested positive for BPA.
The Times reported that the researchers also analyzed 357 oocytes (ovarian cells) from more than 120 women at the clinics. BPA appeared to inhibit the cells’ growth and damage chromosomes.
“Together with prior animal studies, the data support the negative influences of BPA on oocyte maturation,” the scientists wrote.
BPA is an ingredient of numerous products, including plastics, can and pipe linings, and thermal paper coatings. Identified by scientists in the late 1800s, the compound became popular with manufacturers in the mid-20th century. The Times noted that few people questioned the safety of BPA before the late 1990s, when a study indicated that the chemical adversely affected hormones.
Based on the mounting evidence of health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and products intended for infants. However, the compound is still found in a number of consumer products. Studies suggest that BPA contaminates the bodies of most people in the United States.
Authorities advise women to avoid BPA, as researchers continue efforts to prove the compound’s toxicity.