Key Message: Exposure to BPA and phthalates can be harmful and could prevent couples from having children

Action Point: There are steps you can take to limit your exposure to BPA and phthalates

Most parents are aware that Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates can be harmful to young children, and are conscious of buying BPA and phthalate-free plastic items like bottles and cups for them. But new science is suggesting that chemicals like BPA and phthalates could prevent couples from having children in the first place. The new research, presented at a recent conference of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in Boston, links exposure to BPA and phthalates, both chemicals used in many common household products to make plastic more pliable, to both increased infertility and a higher risk of miscarriage. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with our hormones. They have previously been associated with changes in sperm quality, androgen levels, birth outcomes and neurodevelopment of children. One study presented at the conference found that men with high phthalate concentrations in their urine experienced a 20% decline in fertility and took longer to get their partners pregnant than men with fewer phthalates in their urine. Another study found that women who had high levels of BPA in their blood were “at significant increased risk of miscarriage compared to women with the lowest levels.” They found that BPA levels were higher in both chromosomally normal and abnormal miscarriages. It is not routine to test men and women with fertility problems or who have experienced miscarriage for BPA or phthalates, but that may soon change thanks to the findings of the new studies. “It gives you one more thing to ask the patients about when you see unexplained miscarriages in patients,” said Dr. Dorothy Mitchell-Leaf, a fertility expert at Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta.

People who want to limit their exposure to BPA and phthalates are advised:

  1. Not to drink water from plastic bottles that have been left outside in the heat
  2. Not to microwave plastic containers
  3. Avoid eating canned foods
  4. Avoid touching paper receipts, which often contain BPA
  5. Avoid consuming foods or liquids that have been heated in containers that contain BPA or phthalates, as heating these chemicals makes them more dangerous

BPA and phthalate-free plastic goods are now widely available and should be considered a safer choice than regular plastic.


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  1. University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2014) “Dad’s phthalate exposure reproductive success.” Science Daily. Accessed online 2 September 2015. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611151111.htm
  2. Henry, T (2013) “ BPA, Phthalate exposure may cause fertility problems.” CNN online. Accessed online 2 September 2015. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/15/health/bpa-miscarriage-phthalates-fertility/
Sarah Giacomo Written by: Sandra Di Giacomo



Sandra Di Giacomo

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