You read the title right – 95 percent of the human population has a toxic chemical in their bodies! From Harvard Health to Medical News Today, if you frequently visit health and wellness blogs, the chances are that you know about Bisphenol A. BPA is a synthetic compound that gives plastics their rigidity, helping to create durable materials for countless applications. Churning out a shocking 2.7 billion kilograms annually, it’s no wonder it exists in almost everything – from water bottles and canned goods to dental sealants and many other products.
Keep reading to learn more about this toxic chemical and how you can reduce your exposure.
Where It All Started: Early History of Bisphenol A
Aleksandr Dianin, a Russian chemist, first documented BPA in 1891. Little did he know that the substance would become a ubiquitous chemical in our household products and essentials decades later. It took until the 1930s for scientists to recognize its potential as a synthetic estrogen medication. Through this discovery, it managed to pervade aspects of everyday life worldwide.
Similarities Between BPA and Estrogen
Estrogen is a hormone that has a variety of roles in both male and female bodies, with the former producing it at much higher rates than males. Recent studies have linked the devastating effects of bisphenol A to the similar chemical structure it shares with estrogen. According to distinguished members of the scientific community, human receptors cannot differentiate between these two compounds. BPA stimulates the same hormone receptors and mimics natural estrogen’s behavior, revealed a 2015 study that highlighted BPA’s potential as a risk factor for hormone-associated cancers.
As breakthrough research revealed that the properties of naturally-occurring estrogen and bisphenol A were so alike, BPA would have been developed as a pharmaceutical drug. However, researchers found diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a more potent chemical, therefore, taking the spotlight away from BPA. What’s shocking is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later removed diethylstilbestrol from the market after detecting a link between DES and reproductive cancers.
The question is, how did bisphenol A become an omnipresent component in plastic materials?
Why People Can Find BPA in Almost Every Product
As industries sought faster, cheaper production methods in the 20th Century, one chemical answered their call: BPA. Its ability to harden plastic made it a popular choice for many products on store shelves today.
During the 1950s, researchers found that combining BPA with other chemicals produced a tough and translucent material called polycarbonate. Durable and versatile, this hard resin could sustain high-impact collisions and exposure to high temperatures, which is why manufacturers have integrated it into several car parts, safety equipment, and even in microwavable food containers. Polycarbonate can also extend the shelf life of canned goods when used as an inner lining, which adds to the growing list of reasons to avoid processed foods.
Bisphenol A “Seeps Out” of Materials
In 1992, Dr. David Feldman, a researcher at Stanford University, accidentally discovered that BPA easily migrates from materials. While conducting an experiment with yeast, Dr. Feldman found traces of bisphenol A in his laboratory flasks, all of which were plastic. Initially thinking that the sudden emergence of BPA was a result of a biochemical reaction, he soon realized that bisphenol A was “oozing” or separating from his laboratory flasks.
BPA Found in Over 90 Percent of the Human Population
Dr. Feldman’s eye-opening discovery started a global movement to uncover the truth about bisphenol A. It did not take long for the world to realize how pervasive the toxic chemical is. Evidence showed that BPA was present in millions of people, prompting scientists and medical professionals into urgent action against its potentially-devastating effects on human health.
Does BPA Cause Cancer, Chronic Diseases, and More?
Experimental studies concluded that exposing animals to varying levels of BPA caused higher infertility rates, stunted growth, and abnormal development. In addition, sperm count among mice dropped, frog embryos endured irregular progressions, while fish eggs and sperm cells suffered degeneration due to this hormone disrupter’s infiltration into their lives.
In the case of human subjects, the results were similar and also far worse. Prolonged exposure to bisphenol A was found to have far-reaching health consequences, from increasing the risk of hypertension and diabetes to sparking behavior problems in children. Even more concerning is its ability to cross into infants’ bodies while still in utero, putting them at immediate risk before they are even born.
Why the Widespread Use of BPA Continues
Despite research supporting the contrary, the FDA deems BPA to be “safe.” The organization allegedly sided with bisphenol A’s use and was tight-lipped when the government passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and Federal Facilities – a law that regulates toxic chemicals. As mentioned, BPA has been in use since the 1950s, when there were fewer studies on BPA and people assumed its safety without any concrete evidence. As numerous alarming research emerged in the following (and recent) years, the FDA countered by specifying a select few studies that claimed BPA’s safety.
Is the FDA Pro-BPA? Why People Do Not Believe the FDA
The public asserts that conflict of interest is a significant contributor to their disbelief in the FDA’s stance on BPA’s safety. For instance, the American Plastics Council sponsored one of the pro-BPA studies by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, and an organization working for two mega BPA manufacturers conducted another. Citing these studies as “proof that BPA is safe” further erodes public trust in the FDA’s stance on plastic safety.
On a more positive note, though our exposure to bisphenol A continues, there are small wins worthy of celebrating. For example, several companies have responded to complaints and have eliminated BPA from their products, which is a leap forward in the right direction.
Where We Stand
Communities are continuing to protest against the FDA and BPA producers as they grapple to find common ground in an effort to protect public health. After all, from grandparents and children to those still in their mother’s womb – billions of lives are at stake. For now, by equipping ourselves with accurate information, we can be proactive in understanding BPA and warding off potential harm from exposure.