Chemical Plastic

July 20, 2010

Investigation on harm of BPA towards human body

Filed under: Plastic Market News — Administrator @ 1:21 am

Bisphenol A (BPA), a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics, is getting official scrutiny—and things are looking less than rosy for the controversial chemical. The U.S. government’s National Toxicology Program yesterday agreed with a scientific panel that recently expressed concern about physiological changes that occur in people when they ingest BPA that has leached from plastics into their food. The Canadian government is even considering declaring the chemical toxic. This could set the stage for banning it from plastic baby bottles, water bottles, and food containers. At the very least, some people will be even more eager to buy foods and beverages in BPA-free containers.

BPA has raised concerns because it appears to mimic the effects of estrogen, interfering with hormone levels and cell signaling systems. Previous studies have shown that people exposed to high levels of BPA have a greater risk of developing uterine fibroids, breast cancer, decreased sperm counts, and prostate cancer. Babies and children are thought to be at greatest risk from the exposure. In fact, the scientific evidence warrants “a higher level of concern than those expressed by the expert [scientific] panel for possible effects of bisphenol A on prostate gland, mammary gland and early onset of puberty in exposed fetuses, infants and children,” the NTP report concludes.

Not surprisingly, sales of BPA-free baby bottles spiked after yesterday’s news. “We tripled our sales overnight on the website and will be shipping an additional 300,000 bottles to Canada this week to meet an increased demand,” says Ron Vigdor, president of BornFree, which manufactures BPA-free bottles. He adds that Babies “R” Us also indicated that it would be increasing its order to U.S. stores.

Beyond switching baby bottles, another way to lower exposure to BPA is to avoid heating foods and liquids in plastic containers that contain the compound. The amount of BPA that leaches out, the NTP says, may depend more on the temperature of the liquid, food, or container itself than on the age of the plastic bottle or dish. So when it comes to Bisphenol A (BPA) exposure from polycarbonate plastic bottles, it’s not whether the container is new or old but the liquid’s temperature that has the most impact on how much BPA is released, according to University of Cincinnati (UC) scientists. Scott Belcher, PhD, and his team found when the same new and used polycarbonate drinking bottles were exposed to boiling hot water, BPA, an environmental estrogen, was released 55 times more rapidly than before exposure to hot water.

“Previous studies have shown that if you repeatedly scrub, dish-wash and boil polycarbonate baby bottles, they release BPA. That tells us that BPA can migrate from various polycarbonate plastics,” explains Belcher, UC associate professor of pharmacology and cell biophysics and corresponding study author. “But we wanted to know if ‘normal’ use caused increased release from something that we all use, and to identify what was the most important factor that impacts release.”

Belcher stresses that it is still unclear what level of BPA is harmful to humans. He urges consumers to think about how cumulative environmental exposures might harm their health.

“BPA is just one of many estrogen-like chemicals people are exposed to, and scientists are still trying to figure out how these endocrine disruptors–including natural phyto-estrogens from soy which are often considered healthy–collectively impact human health,” he says. “But a growing body of scientific evidence suggests it might be at the cost of your health.”

The UC team reports its findings in the Jan. 30, 2008 issue of the journal Toxicology Letters. UC graduate student Hoa Le and summer undergraduate research fellows Emily Carlson and Jason Chua also participated in this study, which was funded by a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant.

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