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Maine and Bisphenol-A: Of Beards and Breasts

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The Bangor Daily News yesterday quoted Maine Governor Paul LePage as unconcerned about residues of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in food containers because, "The only thing that I've heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards."

The most shocking thing about this statement is the Governor's ignorance of basic biology. The Governor understands that BPA is estrogen-like, is present in many types of food containers, from baby bottles to water bottles to canned food liners, and migrates into food or baby formula from the container.

Consumer Reports tests found BPA to be present in everything from canned beans to vegetable soup.

Somehow the Governor seems to have confused estrogen, the hormone that makes girls look like girls, with testosterone, the hormone that makes men grow beards and controls other sex characteristics. Putting it in the Governor's terms, the thing you might worry about is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and heat it up, the worst case, is that some men might grow little breasts. Or something might happen to their sperm.

Not to worry, of course, although, in fact, a recent Kaiser Permanente study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that workers in Chinese factories that made or used BPA actually showed reduced sperm counts. The same researchers also found BPA-exposed workers had a consistently higher risk of male sexual dysfunction, including reduced sexual desire, erectile difficulty, ejaculation difficulty, and reduced satisfaction with sex life, than the unexposed workers.

Might this alter the Governor's thinking on this question?

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