BPA-free alternatives are not as safe as we thought, stunning new research shows

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA in 2012, plastic manufacturers began experimenting with new bisphenol compounds for the manufacture of poly-carbonate plastics. Consumers thought that the BPA-free alternatives were safer to eat and drink out of, but new research shows that the alternatives are just as harmful.

Plastics generally seem safe, since they aren’t directly consumed. The real problem with BPA and other bisphenols is that they leech out chemicals, contaminating the foods and beverages that they hold. Several studies show that these leeching chemicals mimic estrogen and could harm the brain and reproductive development of fetuses, infants and children. Even in trace amounts, these leeching chemicals affect hormone production of adults, disrupting the endocrine system, and potentially causing mood changes, weight gain, and infertility.

Researchers find that BPA-free plastics still cause chromosomal abnormalities, hormone disruption

The same researchers who accidentally discovered the harms of BPA twenty years ago have accidentally discovered the dangers of alternative bisphenol plastics. Scientists from Washington State University report that “replacement bisphenols produce remarkably similar chromosomal abnormalities to those seen so many years earlier in studies of BPA.”

Two decades ago, the researchers found that BPA leeched out of plastic cages and could be detected in the female mice that roamed inside. The lab rats in the BPA cages had unusual reproductive abnormalities that were traced to the hormonal changes caused by the BPA. The same problem of chromosomal abnormalities was recently discovered in mice that roamed in cages made out of BPA-free alternative plastics.

Patricia Hunt, lead researcher from Washington State University, confirmed that the replacement bisphenols were causing reproductive abnormalities that were similar to those seen during BPA exposure. Hunt points out that the same hormone-disruption could be carried out in humans who often interact with bisphenol plastics.

BPA alternative causes heart arrhthmia, hyperactivity

One BPA alternative, BPS, has been studied further by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Lead researcher Cheryl Watson found that BPS disrupts a cell’s normal function at picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion!) These disruptions can cause metabolic disorders such as diabetes, obesity, and birth defects. A shocking 2001 study tested 455 commercially available plastics and found that most of them leached estrogenic chemicals. Do plastics suppress testosterone and feminize men?

Deborah Kurrasch, from the University of Calgary, exposed zebra fish to bisphenol alternatives at concentrations 1000 times smaller than what humans are exposed to. The bisphenol exposure caused the zebra fish to experience unconventional neuron growth and rapid hyperactivity. Finally, at the University of Cincinnati, researchers found that both BPA and BPS blocked an estrogen receptor in rats, disrupted a calcium channel, and caused a heart arrhythmia.

Because BPA-free bottles are equally harmful to human hormone production, the best containers to use are ones made of glass. Nevertheless, plastic that shows visible signs of wear often leeches greater levels of toxic bisphenols. Plastic containers that have heated up in a hot car or a microwave will also leech out toxic levels of bisphenols.

Patricia Hunt warns that the problem of bisphenol toxicity will persist because current chemical regulations do not encourage the manufacturers to actually find out which properties of the plastics contribute to its toxicity. It is more cost-effective to continue to use bisphenols and label them “BPA-free” even though they are no different than before.

For more on the toxicity of plastics, check out Chemicals.News.

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