By Rachel Goldman
In today’s day and age, plastic products are everywhere and are used constantly. Whether it’s water bottles, toiletries, or coffees, we all know just how useful and easy plastic products can be. However, what is less known, is that plastic contains chemicals called bisphenol A (BPA), that can have dangerous effects on the body. Because of the dangers that BPA poses, many plastic companies have been making products without the addition of BPA. While this seems like the healthier and safer option, is investing in only “BPA free” products worth it?
BPA is a white, colorless, crystalline solid and is one of the most widely used synthetic chemicals on the planet. BPA has many excellent physical and chemical properties, such as strength, thermal stability, hardness, and resistance to oils. Due to this, BPA is commonly added to many commercial products such as plastic containers, canned goods, thermal paper, sports equipment, and toiletries. With more than 8 billion pounds being produced annually worldwide, BPA has received much attention due to the health risks it poses.
While BPA is found in plastic, it can enter the body through the digestive, respiratory, and dermal tracts. This is due to the fact that BPA can leach out from the food and drink containers contaminating foods that are then eaten. Due to the fact that canned foods and plastic wrappings are so common, BPA is ubiquitous in the environment, and its presence has been reported in 95% of the urine samples obtained from a reference population in the United States.
One of the main reasons BPA exposure is so dangerous is because BPA is considered an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can affect endocrine functions by mimicking natural hormone activity. In men, BPA exposure has been associated with decreased fertility, increased risk of testicular or prostate cancer. In women, BPA exposure has been associated with an increased risk of endometriosis, reproductive cancers, impaired oocyte competence, ovarian function, or irregular menstrual cycle. In addition to being classified as an endocrine disruptor chemical, there have been many studies regarding the genotoxicity of BPA. Genotoxicity refers to the ability of BPA to damage genetic information in cells and is tested using several assays, such as a micronucleus assay and a comet assay.
Using genotoxic assays, studies revealed that BPA has the potential to induce genotoxicity in a dose-dependent manner. To ensure that people are not being exposed to high concentrations of BPA, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has set a reference dose (RD) for BPA oral exposure of 0.05mg/kg body weight/ day. Although the US EPA has set 0.05mg/kg body weight/ day as a healthy dosage, a recent in-vitro study was conducted that found that even a dose lower than the reference dose caused DNA damage to cells.
Due to the fact that BPA has been proven to have adverse health effects, many countries, such as North America and Europe, have begun increasing the use of alternative bisphenols such as bisphenol S and bisphenol F. Plastic products that use these substitutes of BPA brand themselves as “BPA free”, however, it is important to note that studies show these substitutes tend to have potential health risks similar to BPA and can also cause DNA damage.
Plastic products that are branded as “BPA free” can be as harmful as BPAproducts because what they use as a replacement can be just as dangerous. While more research is being conducted, for now, the safest way to limit BPA exposure is to use glass and stainless steel containers. It’s always important to be an educated consumer and know what materials are going into the products you are buying!