When we go out to buy plastic containers we usually look for the ones labeled “BPA-free.” We look for the BPA-free label when buying food containers, baby bottles, sippy cups and even toys.
We know bisphenol A, a compound manufacturers use to strengthen plastic, isn’t safe for us because studies have shown that it can cause cancer, early puberty and can lower the quality of egg cells in women. Plus, according to Mayo Clinic, some studies have shown that it can have ill-effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.
That’s why many manufacturers have switched from BPA to BPS (bisphenol S), hence allowing them to label their products as BPA-free. A recent study has shown, however, that BPS is just as risky as BPA.
By exposing embryos to BPS, researchers have found that the BPA alternative still has an effect on embryonic development and can still very likely have negative effects on puberty and the reproductive system.
Published in the journal Endocrinology, the study is the first to examine the effect of BPA and BPS on brain cells and genes that control the growth and function of organs involved in reproduction, says the news release.
“Our study shows that making plastic products with BPA alternatives does not necessarily leave them safer,” explained senior author Nancy Wayne, a reproductive endocrinologist and a professor of physiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the U.S.
The study involved exposing fish embryos to low levels of BPS and BPA; levels similar to those in polluted river waters. After just 25 hours, the researchers noticed changes in the number of endocrine neurons in the embryos suggesting that BPA overstimulates the reproductive system.
Soon, the embryos started hatching earlier than expected. “Egg hatching time accelerated, leading to the fish equivalent of premature birth,” said Wayne, UCLA's associate vice chancellor for research. “The embryos developed much faster than normal in the presence of BPA or BPS.”
“Exposure to low levels of BPA had a significant impact on the embryos' development of brain cells that control reproduction, and the genes that control reproduction later in life,” said Wayne. “We saw many of these same effects with BPS found in BPA-free products. BPS is not harmless.”
Wayne plans on studying BPS further by examining the effect it has on puberty and the reproductive system which she suspects can’t be good as well. She also told the news release that all her plastic containers have been replaced with glass ones since 2008.
Heating up plastic containers and cans releases the BPA and BPS used in making them allowing the chemicals to seep into whatever is in the container whether it be food or your baby’s milk.
Reduce your family’s exposure to BPA and BPS by avoiding the use of plastic containers. The Mayo Clinic says that plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 are most likely made with BPA. Cut back on canned goods since most cans are lined with BPA. Don’t heat or microwave plastic containers and, if you can, replace plastic containers with glass, stainless steel or porcelain ones.
Sources: February 1, 2016. "'BPA-free' plastic accelerates embryonic development, disrupts reproductive system" (sciencedaily.com) March 21, 2013. "What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA?" (mayoclinic.org)