A new study conducted by Italian researchers suggests that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) found in plastics can impact testosterone levels in men.

The study, conducted by an international team of researchers using data obtained from 715 Italian adults aged between 20 and 74, indicates that most of the sample group showed an average BPA exposure of more than five micrograms per day.

This is marginally higher than estimates of BPA exposure across the United States, the scientists say while associating higher BPA exposure with hormone changes among men.

They held the view that small increases in the levels of testosterone in the blood could be the result of exposure to BPA, which is found in a large number of consumer products like food and drink containers.

In fact, several countries have suggested a ban on the use of BPA in the manufacture of baby feeding bottles and other items used for baby care, says Dr. David Melzer, professor of epidemiology and public health at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, who lead the research team.

This is the first major study of BPA accomplished by a European country and confirms that regular exposure to this chemical in the population is not negligible. Additionally, it shows that higher exposure to BPA could statistically be associated with changes in the levels of testosterone in men, Dr. Melzer says in a press statement issued by the Medical School.

Dr. Melzer and his associates also suggest that the latest findings are consistent with evidence obtained from laboratory experiments. "However, this is just the first step in proving that at ordinary exposure levels, BPA might be active in the human body. This new evidence does justify proper human safety studies to clarify the effects of BPA in people," he says.

The study, released in the online version of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, also recalls that previous research had suggested that BPA had a molecular structure to estrogen and caused disruption of the sex hormone's signaling in animals.

In the past, exposure to this chemical has also been linked to disruption of the thyroid hormone, altered pancreatic beta cell function, obesity and cardiovascular disease.