The widely pervasive chemical BPA (bisphenol-A) can be found in plastics, including water bottles and food storage containers, canned food linings, dental fillings and thermal receipts from ATMs and cash registers. BPA has been studied for many years by scientists all over the globe. It has been associated with numerous serious health conditions and now has been linked to adversely affecting the developing brain. More specifically, scientists found that BPA disrupts the development of the brain’s sleep center.
Using a low-level BPA exposure model, scientists found striking changes to the brain region responsible for driving circadian rhythms, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, located in the hypothalamus. When prenatally exposed to these low levels of BPA, the suprachiasmatic nucleus failed to develop properly. This change can have implications for sleep, activity levels, and other behaviors.
“Our goal was to model BPA levels equivalent to what pregnant women and developing babies are typically exposed to. We purposefully did not use a high dose. In fact, our doses were 11 times and nearly 25 times lower than those deemed safe by Health Canada and the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), respectively. Even at these low levels, we saw effects on prenatal brain development in the mice.”
–Dr. Deborah Kurrasch, researcher, University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) and Alberta Children’s Research Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine
Why these findings are worrisome
When neurons develop, they rely on proper signals to guide them. If neurons develop too early, the cues they experience are different, which can lead to developmental errors such as migrating to the wrong location, becoming the wrong type of neuron, or forming inappropriate connections. These errors can lead to altered behaviors later in life.
“Our study shows that in pregnant mice, prenatal exposure to BPA affects the timing of neuron development in the fetal brain, which has lasting effects on behaviors. Offspring that are exposed to BPA during gestation are awake longer and exhibit hyperactivity. The prenatal BPA exposure seems to change the brain’s circadian cues, causing the animals to have elevated energy levels and spend less time resting.” –Dr. Dinu Nesan, scientist
Avoid BPA whenever possible–especially if you are pregnant.
-Never use plastic to heat food in the microwave–always transfer your food to a glass plate before heating.
-Never leave water bottles in the sun or hot car where the plastic can heat up and leach chemicals into the water.
-Discuss BPA-free alternatives for fillings with your dentist.
-Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and avoid eating canned foods–especially those foods that are highly acidic like tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauces and pastes, etc.
-Avoid foods stored in Mason jars with BPA on the inner lids.
-Avoid touching thermal receipts from cash registers and ATMs.
-Minimize eating processed/ultra-processed foods (including from restaurants) stored in plastic containers.
-Repurpose plastic food storage containers when they become cracked or cloudy–never use them for storing or heating food.
Journal reference: Nesan, D., e al. Gestational low-dose BPA exposure impacts suprachiasmatic nucleus neurogenesis and circadian activity with transgenerational effects, Science Advances Journal, 28 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 22, eabd1159. Summary. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1159