In an article published June 6, 2014 in the magazine National Geographic journalist Josie Glausiusz reports on the infertility observed in sows across Spain and stresses the link to multilayer plastic bags uncovered by a group of researchers from the University of Zaragoza, Spain (Nerin et al. 2014). In 2010, pigs on 41 farms ceased bearing piglets or had smaller litters. While neither sows were diseased nor sperm was malfunctioning, semen was stored in multilayer plastic bags containing high levels of cyclic lactone and bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE, CAS 1675-54-3). Lead author Cristina Nerín thinks that the multilayer plastic bags were glued using these chemicals, though this is not usual practice. To confirm her hypothesis in an additional experiment, Nerín spiked each batch of semen with a mix of cyclic lactone and BADGE. As a result only 58% of sows in comparison to 84% percent of sows inseminated with the uncontaminated control became pregnant. Nerín suspects that BADGE caused damage to the sperm’s DNA. Allan Pacey, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, is skeptical that exposure to EDCs may impact sperm and found in another study that only glycol ether and wearing tight underwear affected sperm motility. Niels Skakkebaek of the Danish Rigshospitalet stresses that Nerín’s findings should be seen as a warning.
Josie Glausiusz (June 10, 2014). “Infertility in spanish pigs has been traced to plastics. A warning for humans?” National Geographic.