by LJ Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Managing Editor
Some pretty big names in the journalism world have circulated studies showing that the BPA alternatives used by manufacturers are in fact just as hazardous as BPA. Big names like CNN who recently published the article; Your “BPA-free” plastic product may be no safer than the product it replaced, based on a new UCLA study that analyzed the impact of a common BPA alternative on zebra fish embryos. The study joins a small but growing group of similar research sounding the alarm about so called “BPA-free” alternatives.
“Our findings are frightening and important,” said senior author and reproductive endocrinologist Nancy Wayne. “Consider it the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine.”
Time Magazine wrote a similar article, as well as CNN and Mother Jones. It turns out the chemicals used to replace BPA may have nearly the exact impact on the human body — hormone disruption — as BPA, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
“According to pretty much all the literature there is on these two substitutes, they are hormonally active in ways similar to BPA – similar mechanisms, similar potencies,” said study author Johanna Rochester, a researcher at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.
The most common replacement is BPS (Bisphenol S), says Wayne. She and her colleagues exposed zebrafish to low levels of both BPA and BPS, and looked at the impact of the chemicals on genes and brain cells that control reproduction. Zebrafish have often been used to study the impact of plastic additives because their transparent embryos allow scientists to see and monitor cell growth.
Wayne and her colleagues exposed zebrafish to low levels of both BPA and BPS, and looked at the impact of the chemicals on genes and brain cells that control reproduction. “Our research showed that low levels of BPS had a similar impact on the embryo as BPA,” Wayne told CNN. “In the presence of either BPA or BPS, embryonic development was accelerated. Additionally, BPA caused premature birth.”
In addition to the effect on estrogen, the study also found both BPA and BPS affected the thyroid hormone system. “Because of thyroid hormone’s important influence on brain development during gestation,” said Wayne, “our work holds important implications for general embryonic and fetal development, including in humans.”
In a 2013 study, Texas researchers found that as little as one part per trillion of BPS could interfere with the normal functioning of a cell, in some cases leading to cell death. Another study of zebrafish, out of Canada, found BPA accelerated neural cell growth by 180% for fish exposed to extremely low levels; it was even worse for BPS — neural growth exploded 240%. As adults, the fish exposed to both chemicals showed significant signs of hyperactivity.
Another study, this time in rats, found BPS caused heart arrhythmia when given in doses equivalent to those humans usually experience. In a press release, study author Hong-Sheng Wang, said, “Our findings call into question the safety of BPA-free products containing BPS.
“It’s all pointing in the same direction: BPS is not harmless,” said Wayne about the results of her study in connection with prior research. “Consumers should be cautious about the assumption that ‘BPA-free’ means a product is safe.”
“This is a classic case of ‘regrettable substitution’ in which the replacement chemical is as toxic as the chemical it was replacing,” said Sharima Rasanayagam, director of science for the Breast Cancer Fund, which tracks environmental causes of breast cancer.
BPA is still available in many consumer products such as water bottles, food-storage containers and plastic tableware, as well as contact lenses, eyeglass lenses, compact discs, water-supply pipes, and some dental sealants and composites.
According to the Breast Cancer Fund, BPS has been found in “things printed quickly and at high heats,” such as body wash, hair care products, makeup, lotions and toothpaste, as well as some paper products such as flyers, tickets, mailing envelopes, airplane boarding passes and thermal receipts.
The Breast Cancer Fund recommends that consumers wishing to limit exposure to possible toxins in BPA, BPS and other alternatives use glass, stainless steel and food safe ceramic containers for food and water storage. They stress that it’s not safe to microwave in plastic. Other suggestions include using gloves to handle thermal paper receipts, and researching canned goods to find those that no longer use plastic liners.
Know that BPA-free products can still have unhealthy chemicals.
This is the most important thing to know and it’s pretty straightforward: a BPA-free label doesn’t mean a product is free from other harmful chemical compounds that are slightly different but have a different name. Indeed, the BPA-Free Package program, a third-party group that verifies that products don’t have BPA, is halting operations because the certification creates a “false halo of health” given growing evidence of the dangers of BPS and BPF. Still, because products with BPS and BPF behave similarly to products with BPA, you can follow the same rules to avoid the associated hazards that you would use for BPA.
Avoid handling shopping receipts.
Receipts at many grocery stores and retailers are printed on a product known as “thermal” paper. These receipts, once heavy in BPA, are often made with BPS or BPF these days. In some ways, exposure to these compounds in receipts may be riskier than exposure to containers made with the compound. In receipts, BPS and BPF are “free” and can easily migrate from the product to your skin and other surfaces. “If it’s a receipt that I do need, I’ll hold out my bag and ask the person to drop into the bag so I don’t have to touch it,” Watson says.
Drink from steel or glass containers, not plastic ones.
Steel and glass drinking containers are widely available. It makes sense to purchase a few for the house and a few for the office.
Don’t microwave your food in plastic containers.
The heat from the microwave can separate BPA-like compounds from plastic containers, making them easier for the consumer to ingest. If you must use plastic containers, you should avoid the microwave. Ideally, you just store food in ceramic or glass containers in the first place.
BPA-free plastic alternatives may not be safe as you think by Sandee LaMotte February 1, 2016 http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/01/health/bpa-free-alternatives-may-not-be-safe/