Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical. Chemists have used it to make some plastics since the 1950s. Polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins contain bisphenol A. Industries use these materials to make plastic containers to store food and beverages, such as water bottles. Epoxy resins often coat the insides of some metal products. Examples include bottle tops, water supply lines, and food cans. Bisphenol A prevents the food from directly contacting the metal can.
Below is a list of products that may contain Bisphenol A:
1. Sports equipment
2. Household electronics
3. Menstrual products
5. Canned foods
6. Eyeglass lenses
7. Items packaged in plastic containers
The Concern around Bisphenol A
Many people are worried about exposure to BPA. One of the primary reasons for this worry is that bisphenol A can leach out into the food and beverages people consume.
Food or beverages stored in BPA containers for long periods of time, like bottled water and canned tomatoes, may contain some amount of BPA.
Foods placed in microwavable plastic bowls or beverages in microwavable plastic cups may also contain BPA. Heat causes additional bisphenol A to leach out.
BPA exposure is widespread. Research suggests that many people beyond the age of 6 contain measurable amounts of BPA in their urine.
Researchers have found that exposure to BPA can cause various health issues. BPA can mimic the function and structure of the hormone estrogen. This means that bisphenol A can bind itself to estrogen receptors. Once attached, it can influence bodily functions like cell repair, growth, reproduction, fetal development, and energy levels.
BPA can also interact with thyroid receptors. It can alter the function of thyroid receptors. The human body is susceptible to changes in hormone levels. Since BPA can easily alter hormone functions, many people are concerned about bisphenol exposure and its impact on human health.
The FDA still says that bisphenol A is a safe additive in food packaging. However, the FDA banned industries from using BPA in baby bottles, baby formula cans, and sippy cups in 2012.
However, emerging and ongoing research still suggests that even ‘safe’ BPA levels can cause or contribute to a range of health issues.
We still need more research from chemists and biologists to understand the actual safety limits of exposure to bisphenol A. We also need more research to know if bisphenol A can cause harmful health effects at any level of exposure.
Potential Health Effects of Exposure to Bisphenol A
1. Infertility in Men and Women
Bisphenol A can affect fertility in men and women. Since it can mimic estrogen, it can affect estrogen receptors in males and females. By acting on it, it promotes inflammation and damages the cells through a process called oxidative stress.
Our bodies can exhibit damage in many ways. In a study conducted on male mice that received BPA-treated drinking water, researchers found that they had diminished sperm quality, low testosterone levels, and more significant infertility compared to male mice that received normal-quality drinking water.
Researchers found that in female mice, BPA exposure reduces fertility. Exposure to bisphenol A reduced the number of healthy eggs in the females and negatively affected the ability of a fertilized egg to implant itself on the uterus wall. BPA exposure seemed to age the female reproductive system prematurely. It caused hormone changes and diminished fertility.
Some studies have even linked BPA exposure to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in animals.
Even with all these results, we still need more studies to strengthen our evidence of BPA exposure against fertility. Most of the evidence scientists currently have is from mice studies. Mice studies do not accurately represent how bisphenol A can affect human fertility.
2. Obesity, Heart Disease, and Type 2 Diabetes
BPA exposure causes inflammation. These effects can contribute to weight gain. It can also contribute to the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In addition to being able to bind itself to estrogen, bisphenol A can also bind itself to other hormone receptors through this process, and it can cause fat accumulation.
BPA can also increase stress levels in the body by damaging the mitochondria. Our bodies respond to stress through chronic inflammation and altered hormone levels, weight, and appetite.
Researchers have linked chronic inflammation to increased heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes risk.
3. Other Health Problems
In addition to fertility and diabetes, bisphenol A may also cause birth defects and childhood health issues.
Bisphenol A can pass from the mother to the child through the placenta and breast milk. It can disrupt healthy embryonal, fetal, and childhood growth.
Fetuses in their developing stage cannot break down bisphenol A. This makes fetuses extremely sensitive to BPA exposure.
Scientists and researchers have also linked low levels of bisphenol A exposure to breast, ovarian, colon, and prostate cancer development. Scientists have also gathered evidence from some test-tube studies that BPA can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.
However, we still need much more information to better understand the effects of BPA exposure on humans.
How Can You Minimize BPA Exposure?
While we still need more solid research to back our claims, we are sure that BPA produces some adverse effects on our health. Though completely eliminating exposure to bisphenol A may be impossible, here are some small ways to reduce your exposure:
1. Limit Eating Packaged Foods
Eat whole, healthy, and fresh foods. Try to limit your consumption of canned or packaged food in plastic containers.
2. Drink From Glass Bottles
Buy liquids sold in glass bottles and not plastic ones. Also, use a glass or steel water bottle for your daily water intake.
3. Select Toys Carefully
When buying toys for your children, make sure that they’re made from BPA-free material. It is important not to buy toys made from bisphenol A since small children tend to chew or suck on their toys.
4. Do Not Microwave Plastic
Even though the label on your plastic bowl reads ‘microwavable’, don’t do it. Heat causes more than the usual BPA leaching. Always store and heat food in glass bowls.
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.