BPA: From bad to worse

The first major study of health effects in people from a chemical used in plastic baby bottles, food cans and a host of other products links it with possible risks for heart disease and diabetes. (AP)

See also: This is your fetus’ brain on plastics

And here, for your enjoyment (coff), an excerpt of my undergrad paper on BPA. This stuff ain’t good for you.

During the past thirty years, certain chemicals have been found to disrupt the endocrine systems of wildlife, lab animals, and humans. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound, first synthesized in 1905, that is made from two moles of phenol and acetone (hence its name). In 1936, Dodds and Lawson fed BPA to ovariectomized rats and found that it could act as a weak estrogen. But its principal use was created in 1953, when researchers found that they could combine BPA and the poison gas phosgene to form a hard, clear polycarbonate plastic. Bisphenol A-based polycarbonate, commonly referred to as just “polycarbonate,” has a variety of uses. Most important for the purposes of its biological effects are the uses in which BPA can be ingested. BPA is used the lining of cans, in tooth sealants and in “white filling” composites, and it has been found to leach into saliva (Brotons et al., 1995; Olea et al., 1996). The chemical’s old reputation as an estrogen re-emerged seven years ago, when scientists at Stanford University reported that their experiments had been tainted by BPA leaching from plastic flasks they were using. The cells reacted even though the amounts were too small to be detected by the maker’s safety testing procedures (Krishnan et al., 1993).

The levels of BPA exposure determined safe by the FDA have been shown in many experiments to be unsafe for consumption. More studies will be needed to validate these effects. But most importantly, more basic research is needed on how BPA mimics estrogen and binds to its receptor; how that binding triggers estrogenic effects; and what those effects mean in terms of organ (including brain) development. In the meantime, it seems that women of childbearing age should avoid, as much as possible, exposure to polycarbonate plastics.

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