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What are the Potential Health Effects of Bisphenol A?


Plastic tubs containing food, studio shot
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Question: What are the Potential Health Effects of Bisphenol A?
Answer: Bisphenol A is considered an endocrine disruptor because it mimics estrogen, a natural hormone, and may fool the body by stimulating reactions that are unnecessary and potentially harmful.

Scientists have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities in adults as well as brain and hormone development problems in fetuses and young children. Other tests have shown that bisphenol A can promote human breast cancer cell growth, decrease sperm counts in rats, and cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men.

Numerous studies have shown that bisphenol A leaches from plastics and resins when they are exposed to hard use or high temperatures (as in microwave ovens and dishwashers). Because bisphenol A is used in so many common products that we use every day—such as baby bottles, reusable water bottles, microwaveable containers, and the protective coating inside most food and beverage cans—most people in developed countries are exposed almost continuously to some level of bisphenol A.

Some official government organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority maintain that it is virtually impossible for most people to experience an unsafe level of BPA exposure in their daily lives.

Some of those conclusions have become controversial, however, especially in light of recent studies about the health effects of bisphenol A. The safety threshold set by the EPA was based on decades-old data, for example, and never updated. Even more troubling, the FDA finding was discredited when it was discovered that the agency had ignored the advice of its own scientists and allowed representatives of the chemical industry to write significant portions of the final document.

Amid these controversies, public concerns about the potential health effects of BPA continue to grow, and many scientists believe those concerns are justified.

In a 2004 study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found BPA present in the urine of 93 percent of those tested, and also concluded that many Americans are exposed to bisphenol A at levels above the safety threshold set by the EPA. The CDC data also revealed that children are more heavily exposed to BPA than adolescents who, in turn, had higher concentrations than adults. In addition, the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is definitely reason to be concerned that BPA may cause developmental problems in children’s brains and hormonal systems.

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