Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as water bottles, dental composites and resins used to line metal food and beverage containers. Often, aquatic environments such as rivers and streams become reservoirs for contaminants, which can include products containing BPA.

A new experiment was able to expose fish to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and cause them to pass adverse reproductive effects onto their offspring as many as three generations later, leading the authors to suggest that BPA could have adverse reproductive effects for fish and also humans and their offspring who are exposed to BPA as well.

The team exposed medaka, Japanese rice fish, to chemicals that included BPA for one week during embryonic development. The team then studied their offspring through up to four generations but subsequent generations were never exposed to the chemicals. No apparent reproductive abnormalities appeared in the first two generations of fish; however, the researchers found that generations beyond that showed a reduced rate of fertilization and increased embryo mortality.

"The shorter generations of the medaka fish make it an ideal candidate for this type of study, and we can generally translate the findings from fish to humans as well," said Ramji Bhandari, an assistant research professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri. "Findings showed a 30 percent decrease in the fertilization rate of fish two generations after exposure and a 20 percent reduction after three generations. If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in generations far removed from the initial exposure."

"This study examined concentrations of BPA and other chemicals that are not expected to be found in most environmental situations," said co-author and adjunct professor Don Tillitt. "However, concern remains about the possibility of passing on adverse reproductive effects to future generations at lower levels."

Citation: "Transgenerational effects from early developmental exposures to bisphenol A or 17α-ethinylestradiol in medaka, Oryzias latipes," Scientific Reports.