Chemical in plastic boxes affecting fertility, say docs

Food containers such as these might contain BPA, a chemical released from polycarbonate plastics.

Infertility is a rising concern among young Bengalureans and increased use of plastic in daily needs is being cited as a reason, say city doctors. 

Earlier, lifestyle choices like smoking, lack of sleep and exercise, improper dietary and lifestyle patterns were observed as the main reason for a dip in fertility rates.

Now, Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, which is released from polycarbonate plastics used in making containers and water bottles is being seen as a threat. Urbanisation has lead to increase in usage of packaged food and plastics, point out medical practitioners. 

Dr Deepthi Bawa, consultant (reproductive medicine & IVF), Aster CMI hospital, explains that BPA affects male fertility more; causing a decline in sperm motility.

There is a 15 per cent rise in male infertility cases, which could be because of rising levels of BPA within, she adds. 

“Ongoing research across the world suggest that BPA can affect offsprings too. Phthalate and BPA release from plastic is harmful. Increased intake of junk food already release oxidants which affect one’s health and now BPA is an added threat.” 

Cases of infertility are on the rise for males and females, observes Dr Santosh Gupta, fertility consultant at Nova IVI Fertility. 

“It is always a huge issue in urban spaces and bigger cities compared to villages. In Bengaluru, infertility cases have risen by at least 30 per cent in the last 10 years. It is also during this time that consumption of plastic and microwaveable and packaged food has increased,” she says. 

She adds, “Though no infertility case can be said to have originated only because of excess use of plastic but it is a contributing factor. BPA can cause ovulation problems, implantation failure, reduce the quality of eggs and even cause PCOD.”

Sperm parameters can get deeply affected by BPA in plastics, she adds.

“Evidence and studies say that more doctors are seeing unexplained cases of infertility, where everything else seems fine. This is where plastic has been cited as a reason. In Bengaluru, many young professionals frequently order food which comes in plastic containers. They cook once a day and reheat the food in plastic containers later. At work, conferences or meetings, bottled water is used,” she says. 

The use of earthen pots and earthenware are still common in villages, which could be the reason for lesser infertility cases, she adds. 

Dr Shanthala Thuppanna, senior consultant (gynecological laparoscopy), Sakra World Hospital notes that BPA acts like estrogen which can change the endocrine system and to an extent can even affect immunity. 

“Previously FDA thought that plastic couldn’t do anything to human beings. But studies in the West have proved that there is around 30 to 40 per cent of unexplainable infertility cases. Their blood reports showed high presence of BPA.”

Even failures with IVF patients have been observed in the city which could be caused by this, she adds. 

How can one avoid BPA?

  • Avoid plastic containers to store, heat food or carry food.
  • Avoid plastic water bottles.
  • When ordering food from outside, carry your own containers.
  • Use glass-based or steel containers.
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