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Food Chem Toxicol. 2018 Mar;113:115-124. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2018.01.044. Epub 2018 Feb 3.

A common surfactant used in food packaging found to be toxic for reproduction in mammals.

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I3A, University of Zaragoza, Campus Rio Ebro, Maria de Luna 3, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain. Electronic address:
I3A, University of Zaragoza, Campus Rio Ebro, Maria de Luna 3, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain.
Dept. Analytical Chemistry, Complutense University of Madrid, Faculty of Chemical Sciences, 28040, Madrid, Spain.
Biotechnology Research and Development Department, Magapor SL, Parque Científico Tecnológico Valdeferrín, Ejea de los Caballeros, Zaragoza, Spain.


Migration from a multilayer plastic material intended for food contact showed that 2,4,7,9-tetramethyl-5-decyne-4,7-diol mixture (surfynol), used as a surfactant in the adhesive employed to build the multilayer, was transferred to water and other food simulants in contact with the plastic. When these multilayer plastics were used for containing seminal doses for artificial insemination, it was found that fertility was seriously damaged in terms of motility, acrosome integrity, mitochondrial activity and penetration capacity in the cells, thus affecting male fertility. Quantitative proteomic analysis of exposed germinal cells demonstrated the inhibition of key proteins involved in the fertilization capacity by affecting the cytoskeleton, sperm motility, the energy machinery and sperm defense mechanisms against oxidation, therefore confirming the surfactant-induced male infertility. These results open up new and interesting perspectives for the study of reprotoxicity caused by different chemicals common in our daily lives.


This paper demonstrates the toxicity for reproduction of a common surfactant used in food packaging and the scientific reasons why the sperm loses reproductive capacity in presence of this chemical. So, the surfactant affects the male fertility. The surfactant is present in many adhesives used either for building multilayer materials or to glue paper and plastic in food packaging. This is the first time that reprotoxicity is demonstrated for this compound. According to the theoretical approach Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) the compound is highly toxic but experimental data did not exist so far. The study described in this paper and the results obtained open a door to further research in which male infertility caused by chemicals could be demonstrated.


Food packaging; LC-MS; Mammals; Proteomic; Reprotoxicity; Surfynol

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