BPA Is Fine, If You Ignore Most Studies About It

The highly controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has been linked with yet another adverse health condition: prostate cancer.

In a small study published in PLOS ONE, scientists observed the presence of high levels of BPA in men with prostate cancer; they also found that BPA exposure disrupts cell division, potentially affecting cancer’s development.

The Cincinnati Cancer Center researchers say these findings point to the need for future studies looking into the effects of BPA exposure.

BPA is used to manufacture hard, polycarbonate plastics and is found in many food product containers such as cans, receipts and plastic water bottles.  It has been linked to cancers, neurological defects, diabetes and obesity. BPA exposure in the U.S. is widespread, with more than 90 percent of the population containing some levels of the chemical.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is either a harmless chemical that’s great for making plastic or one of modern society’s more dangerous problems. Depends whom you ask.

BPA is in many types of plastics and the epoxy resins that line most aluminum cans, as well as thermal papers like receipts. It is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, a hormone especially important in sexual development, and the fact that it’s all over the place worries many people. Newsweek spoke with about 20 scientists, leaders in the field of BPA research, and the majority say it is likely (though not certain) that the chemical plays a role in a litany of health concerns: obesity, diabetes, problems with fertility and reproductive organs, susceptibility to various cancers and cognitive/behavioral deficits like ADHD.

“There’s too much data consistent across studies…time and time again…to ignore it and suggest BPA has no effect on humans,” says Gail Prins, a physiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But the plastic industry, researchers it funds and, most important, many regulatory agencies—including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)—say BPA is safe for humans at the levels people are exposed to.

“BPA used in food packaging does not present a risk to consumer health,” says FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman. Kathryn St. John, with the industry group American Chemistry Council, says BPA is safe and refers to statements made by the FDA and EFSA to back her up. And John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, states emphatically that BPA is nothing to worry about, adding, “I feed it to my five children every day.”

Fetal Risks

BPA was first synthesized in 1891 by a Russian chemist and investigated for use as an artificial estrogen in the 1930s, when it was found to mimic the effects of that hormone on the human body. Two decades later, manufacturers began to use it to make plastics, specifically polycarbonate, and its estrogenic properties were mostly ignored.

BPA is relatively cheap to produce and very effective for making structurally sound plastics, producing strong and often transparent products that resist falling apart when heated or cooled. And it’s great at keeping cans from corroding. Around 75 percent of cans in North America are lined with BPA, says Rost.

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What are your thoughts on BPA? Will you avoid products containing this potentially harmful chemical? Let us know in the comments.

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