Very low, commonly experienced doses of bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical likely hiding out in nearly every kitchen cabinet in America, leads to heavier body weight, larger fat cells, altered insulin and glucose levels, and fat buildup in certain areas of the body, according to the latest study. This is just one of many recent studies raising major red flags regarding the safety of the canned food, plastic, and thermal cash-register receipt chemical.
The research, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, made a particularly important discovery: Mice that scientists fed low doses of BPA were more likely to develop bodily changes that promote type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome than animals receiving larger doses. In fact, larger doses of the chemical did not appear to harm the animals, raising concerns because current safety testing focuses on high-dose exposure, not ultra-low doses along the lines of what Americans typically experience day in and day out.
Translation? This could mean our entire chemical safety program is out of whack and ineffective in actually protecting us from the 80,000 chemicals on the market.
In fact, this study started with the BPA dose that previous studies determined had no ill effects on any health aspect. When researchers started looking at lower doses—the ones not required in current chemical testing regulations—well, that's when the metabolic trouble started showing up.
"This is important because current chemical safety regulations allow high-dose testing, where high doses are studied for adverse effects, and then calculations are performed to estimate which disease are safe for humans and wildlife," explains BPA expert Laura Vandenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow of biology at the Center for Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "High doses certainly should not be considered 'safe;' it's just that at higher doses, there isn't an increase in body weight or altered metabolism," she says. "But clearly, at low doses there are a number of adverse health effects."
In the latest study, led by veteran BPA researcher Frederick vom Saal, PhD, professor in the division of biological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia, scientists exposed mice to low levels of BPA during early development. Then, as they grew older, they started showing symptoms similar to those of metabolic syndrome in humans.
Scientists have vigorously studied BPA health effects, but other hormone-disrupting chemicals could be just as dangerous, too.
Want to shed your BPA habit? Opt for fresh food whenever possible. One cost-effective trick is to buy in bulk during the farmer's market season, then freeze or can the leftovers. You can also tell cashiers you don't want a receipt for small purchases and encourage your favorite stores to move to digital receipts. (Some companies offer you the option of an emailed or texted receipt.) Avoid heating and storing food and beverages in plastic containers, too. Although BPA is the main component of some No. 7 plastics, other types of plastics harbor different hormone-disrupting chemicals that are also linked to obesity and other health problems.
To learn more about why you should avoid BPA, read 5 Weird Things BPA Is Doing to Your Body.
Published on: July 29, 2013
Updated on: July 31, 2013