BPA Is Likely an Ovarian Toxicant

Two years ago, the FDA banned bisphenol A, better known as BPA, from use in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups. The agency was concerned that the compound could cause developmental issues in young children. Now, based on a recent review of research on BPA, hopeful mothers may want to avoid the plastic ingredient, too.

Studies on BPA are numerous, and their findings haven’t always agreed with one another, in part because we didn’t know exactly what ailments it could cause. But the review paper, in which several scientists pored over dozens of studies, says that one effect stood out. BPA appeared to be a so-called ovarian toxicant, interfering with hormone production, egg production, and egg viability.

plastic water bottles
Bisphenol A, commonly found in many plastics, is increasingly linked to fertility problems in animals and humans.

Deborah Blum, reporting for the New York Times:

“There are so many studies of BPA that it’s often difficult to weed out the real effects,” said Tracey Woodruff, the director of the program on reproductive health and the environment at the University of California, San Francisco. “But on this question of ovarian toxicity, all the studies are starting to line up.”

Many studies on BPA rely on studying animals exposed to the compound, but there are a few that try to pull out its effects on humans. One looked at oocytes—precursors to mature eggs—that were discarded from an in-vitro fertilization clinic and found a correlation between BPA levels in women and incomplete oocyte maturation. (Oocytes that don’t mature to become ova can reduce a woman’s fertility.)

Despite recent awareness of BPA, the plastic ingredient is still in widespread use. Given the subtle ways in which BPA seems to interact with our bodies, it’s unlikely that there will be one definitive study declaring it safe or harmful. Still, researchers remain on the case to determine the exact nature of any risks the compound poses.