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Sarah Janssen’s Blog

More evidence that BPA is toxic and industry tactics exposed

Sarah Janssen

Posted January 29, 2009 in Health and the Environment

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 In this era of change, not much has changed at the FDA , where officials continue to say that bisphenol A (BPA) in our food supply is safe despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  We are hopeful that once a new FDA commissioner is named, there will be some major transformations at FDA resulting in an agency that put science before politics and public health before industry profits.

In the meantime, and since I've last written about BPA, there have been at least five new scientific studies published that support previous research findings and continue to raise concern about the toxic effects of BPA and the vulnerability of infants and children to this chemical. And a story was published in the magazine, Fast Company, exposing the tactics of the chemical industry to keep this toxic chemical on the market.

Previous research has associated BPA with interfering with development of the brain, behavioral changes, early puberty, breast cancer and prostate cancer. New research has also suggested that BPA may interfere with metabolism and lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes in humans.

 Just yesterday, a new study was published that questions the previous assumption that BPA is rapidly broken down and eliminated from the body in 24 hours.  In this study, using data collected from over 1,600 Americans, there was a drop in BPA levels after 4 hours of fasting, but then it leveled off and was never completely eliminated from the body, even after 24 hours of fasting.  This suggests that either it takes the body longer to break down BPA than we previously thought and/or food is not the major source of exposure to BPA.  Either way, this provocative study suggests we are more highly exposed than was previously appreciated.

 Other human studies published in the past month have indicated that infants are the most highly exposed. Premature infants in neonatal intensive care units had 10 times higher levels of BPA in their bodies than adult levels and twice as high as children ages 6-11. These high levels of exposure are presumed to be from medical equipment found in hospital settings. This study agrees with another study which used computer modeling to predict that babies would have eleven times higher BPA levels.  Here the difference was attributed to natural differences in metabolism and body size between infants and adults.

Additional studies in laboratory animals have demonstrated that BPA exposures in the womb are associated with abnormalities in adult female reproductive tissues and exposures shortly after birth have been associated with changes in the secretion of sex hormones from the brain and with the development of mammary (breast) cancer. 

All of these studies are consistent with previous research and add to the weight of evidence that BPA is a toxic chemical that has no business being in our food.

You might wonder why our government is overlooking all this research and instead of adopting an approach that is "better safe than sorry" has chosen to assume this chemical is "innocent until proven guilty".  A recent article in the magazine, Fast Company, exposes the real story and reveals that some of the same tactics that were used by the tobacco industry to cast doubt on the toxicity of cigarettes have now been adopted by the chemical industry to delay regulation of BPA. The story exposes multiple instances where the chemical industry has published reports or hired lobbying firms to advocate for the continued use of their chemical.  

We expect our government agencies to be immune to these tactics and put science and public health before industry profits but this hasn't been the case at  FDA.  

NRDC has reviewed the science on BPA and concluded that this science is concerning and we should be limiting our exposures. Based on this we have already asked the FDA to remove BPA from our food packaging. While we wait for their response, we've been communicating our concerns to the FDA transition team and remain cautiously optimistic that once a new FDA Commissioner is named there will be some big changes at FDA.

 Stay tuned and check here for tips on ways to limit your exposure to BPA.

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Comments

Dr. James SingmasterJan 29 2009 10:04 PM

Sarah: I have already e-mailed you what I am going to write here concerning a recent TV ad by a major bleach company, in which it shows the use of bleach to wash baby bottles. BPA is a phenolic compound of the type well known to react with chlorine present in bleach to form chlorophenols close to those in the Agent Orange mess. Since sewage system treatments also use chlorine, discharged water having BPA may also have chlorinated BPA compounds, which I have not heard reports about. So you may want to get NRDC to redouble its efforts on controlling BPA. I have a Ph.D. in environmental toxicology from UC Davis(75) and was cited in the media late spring 83 for warnings about dioxins in Missouri and New Jersey. Dr. James Singmaster

Janel ObenchainFeb 1 2009 08:49 AM

Can you add references for "New research has also suggested that BPA may interfere with metabolism and lead to obesity"? Over the summer I searched pubmed for BPA/obesity studies and didn't find anything at that time.

Sarah JFeb 2 2009 05:11 PM

Thanks for your comments.

Dr. Singmaster, I wasn't aware of the chemical reaction you are describing but will add that to my list of concerns. We do know that when polycarbonate bottles are rinsed with bleach there is an increased leaching of BPA and we definitely recommend against that for people who want to continue to use these products. In the meantime, rest assured that NRDC is working to eliminate the major sources of exposure to this chemical.

As for the second question, there are several studies linking BPA exposure to abnormalities in the function of fat cells and one study linking early life exposure to BPA with obesity.

1. Perinatal and postnatal exposure to bisphenol a increases adipose tissue mass and serum cholesterol level in mice.
Miyawaki J, Sakayama K, Kato H, Yamamoto H, Masuno H. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2007 Oct;14(5):245-52. Epub 2007 Oct 12.
PMID: 17938543

2. Bisphenol A at environmentally relevant doses inhibits adiponectin release from human adipose tissue explants and adipocytes.
Hugo ER, Brandebourg TD, Woo JG, Loftus J, Alexander JW, Ben-Jonathan N.
Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Dec;116(12):1642-7. PMID: 19079714

3. Bisphenol A affects glucose transport in mouse 3T3-F442A adipocytes.
Sakurai K, Kawazuma M, Adachi T, Harigaya T, Saito Y, Hashimoto N, Mori C.
Br J Pharmacol. 2004 Jan;141(2):209-14.

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