Undark - The Pros and Cons of ‘BPA-Free’

September 6, 2017

By: Ramin Skibba

Excerpt: "Five years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially banned the use of the chemical bisphenol A — commonly referred to as BPA — in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups. A year later, the agency extended the ban to the chemical’s use in baby formula packaging. Manufacturers had used BPA for decades, but modern research in animal models and human cell cultures suggested that the estrogen-like chemical can leach from containers to food and, particularly in infants, potentially affect prostate and brain function. ... 

Manufacturers describe BPA as an exceptional industrial chemical. It is used to make plastics hard and clear and durable, and it has proved useful as the basis for resins that protect canned foods from coming in direct contact with metal, which prevents corrosion and preserves flavor. “These unique attributes,” the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, an industry organization, notes on its website, “provide high-performance benefits in a wide array of consumer and industrial products that perform well in harsh settings.”

Still, BPA is a synthetic estrogen and it mimics the female sex hormone. As a result, studies have suggested that depending on the dose, the chemical can interfere with the signals hormones carry, disrupting the body’s communication networks in glands of the endocrine system, affecting the reproductive, brain, and immune systems. In its most recent assessment, the FDA concluded that “an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.” But that has done little to slow the rapid transition to BPA-free products, and scientists have been scrambling to understand the chemical’s replacements.

Ruthann Rudel, a toxicologist and head of the Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit public health research group in Newton Massachusetts, just completed a crowdsourced study analysis in which participants sent in their own urine samples for testing. “The people in our study did have lower [BPA] exposure,” she noted, “but their exposures to the two substitutes [BPS and BPF] are higher.”

Rudel speculated that this was because the participants were choosing BPA-free products."

Everyday Chemical Exposures