BPA-Replacement Plastics for Food-Drink Likely Unsafe, say researchers

We reported on preliminary studies over a year and a half ago which demonstrated that the new plastics intended to replace BPA (bisphenol-A) appeared to be as potentially hazardous as the plastics containing BPA.  Now new replication research is in and the news is not good.  It appears that the BPA-replacement plastic used for processed foods and drinks is also potentially harmful to human health.  Scientists now believe it is likely the entire bisphenol class of chemicals are deleterious to health and well-being.  More replications studies are needed. But for the time-being it appears that unless manufacturers ditch the ‘bisphenols’ in plastic entirely, searching out food and drink containers marked “BPA-Free” is not helping consumers.


BPA-free plastics may not be safer than regular plastics after all, a new study finds



Consumers turning to plastics made with alternatives to BPA in the hope that they’re safer won’t like what they’re about to hear.


A new study, published in the journal Current Biology, concluded that common alternatives to BPA caused harmful effects in mice, notably in their reproductive cells. The findings add to the mounting body of evidence that these alternatives carry their own health risks. As Science noted, if further research on animals and humans continues to support these findings, it could derail efforts to reassure the many consumers already nervous about the plastics in their food and drink containers that there are safe options to choose from.


The issue has been one of major concern in recent years, in part because of the work of Patricia Hunt, the Washington State University geneticist who led the team behind the new research. She first helped draw attention to the possible perils of BPA—bisphenol A in its long form—after stumbling on them by accident.


The industrial chemical has been used for decades to make the plastics that food is packaged in and the resins used to line items such as cans. In 1998, she was doing a study using the eggs of mice when she found that an unusually high number of them had defects. She figured out that a temporary worker in the lab had used a harsh floor cleaner, instead of the usual mild detergent, to clean out the mice’s cages and bottles, damaging the plastic and causing BPA to leach out.


The new study tested the effects of BPA and common alternatives, such as BPS (bisphenol S), BPF, and BPAF on female and male mice. It found that the chemicals disrupted the way genetic information was passed down during meiosis, the division of cells necessary to produce egg and sperm cells in sexually reproducing animals, and suggests that the problem is with “bisphenols as a class.”


The new study arose from circumstances similar to the one that prompted Hunt’s first look into BPA. She had recently discovered that the normal washing of her new, BPA-free cages, made of polysulfone, were degrading to form BPA-like compounds and causing similar issues. It was “a strange déjà vu experience,” Hunt told Science. It prompted the deeper look into BPA alternatives.


The past several years have seen growing worry about BPA, over fears that the practically ubiquitous chemical affects hormones, reducing sperm counts and causing other issues. But what danger it really poses is still unclear. Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban it. The FDA refused, but did bar its use in baby bottles and sippy cups. A recent government study found it not much of a threat.


Still, many people look for alternatives. For them, the study by Hunt and the other authors has a warning: “Although ‘BPA free’ is a valuable marketing tool, and most consumers interpret this label as an indication of a safer product, our findings add to growing evidence from studies in C. elegans, zebrafish, mice, and rats, as well as human in vitro studies that replacement bisphenols have the potential to induce adverse effects similar to those reported for BPA.”




Journal Reference: Horan, T., et al.  Replacement Bisphenols Adversely Affect Mouse Gametogenesis with Consequences for Subsequent Generations, Current Biology, 2018.  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.070


And on the topic of BPA and BPA-replacment chemicals, this research is just in:

BPA replacements in plastics cause reproductive problems in lab mice

Twenty years ago, researchers made the accidental discovery that BPA had leached out of plastic cages used to house female mice in the lab, causing an increase in chromosomally abnormal eggs. Now, the same team is back to report that the array of alternative bisphenols now used to replace BPA in BPA-free bottles, cups, cages, and other items appear to come with similar problems for their mice.

BPA exposure in US-approved levels may alter insulin response in non-diabetic adults

In a first study of its kind study, researchers have found that a common chemical consumers are exposed to several times a day may be altering insulin release. Results of the study indicate that the Food and Drug Administration-approved ‘safe’ daily exposure amount of BPA may be enough to have implications for the development of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
Also see this well-written overview of how the dangers of BPA-replacement chemical BPS was uncovered:

What a strange case of scientific déjà vu showed us about the dangers of plastics

New research shows that BPA-free plastic might still be harmful

This story originally appeared on Massive Science, an editorial partner site that publishes science stories by scientists.