Researchers from the U.S. say that a chemical found in many commonly-used hard plastic products, such as drinking bottles and food containers, could not only affect the heart, brain and nervous system, but damage our chances of having children as well.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical and environmental pollutant found in baby bottles, the coating on the inside of tinned foods and drinks, as well as hard plastic food and drink containers, amongst other things.
BPA has been recognised as a chemical that disrupts hormones and has been linked to cancer.
Now a team from the University of Cincinnati say exposure to BPA could also affect our ability to reproduce by altering the structure of the uterus in ways that can progress to a potentially fatal infection.
The findings, published in an online edition of the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology, found that infection and inflammation of the uterus, or pyometra, is most commonly seen in animals like dogs and cats but can also affect humans. It is a result of hormonal and structural changes in the uterus lining and can be deadly if left untreated.
"This condition can be caused by chronic exposure to oestrogens; however, it is unknown whether oestrogenic endocrine disruptors, like bisphenol A, can cause pyometra,” says Scott Belcher, professor in the department of pharmacology and cell biophysics .
Researchers in this study exposed mice to different dietary doses of BPA in their food.
They found that animals exposed to either BPA in their food or (EE), a semi-synthetic steroidal oestrogen, saw immune cell numbers in the uteri of one strain of mice increased five-fold compared with those who received no exposure to the chemicals.
The increase in immune cell numbers has been linked to pyometra, said researchers.
In another strain of mice, they were less sensitive to the exposure of BPA, and researchers say they are unsure why.
“It seems likely that the immunologic and structural differences between the strains indicate a potential key difference in susceptibility to developing pyometra, which is related to the immune response,” says Belcher. “We are extremely interested in understanding why some strains or individuals are insensitive to the effects of endocrine disruptors, while others are resistant to the harmful actions of these chemicals.”