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More bad news about BPA (bisphenol A) - an endocrine disrupter linked to a number of health problems, including reproductive disorders (here, here, and here). A new study has lent support for a  link between bisphenol A (BPA) exposure during pregnancy and later breast cancer. BPA can cross the placenta in the womb, and so expose the fetus, it has been found in placental tissue, and newborns can be exposed through breastfeeding. BPA is found in the urine of about 95% of the U.S. population.

It's hard to avoid BPA because it's found in so many products, but a person can lower exposure to it by avoiding canned products (it's in the can linings), as well as plastic bottles and containers, microwaving or heating food in plastic containers, and fast food (it's in the packaging and leaches into the food) . Glass and stainless steel is OK for storing food. By the way, BPA substitutes such as BPS  and BPSIP have the same negative health effects (because they're chemically similar) - so also avoid "BPA-free" products. From Endocrine News;

A Pervasive Threat: The Danger of in utero BPA Exposure

A new study presented at ENDO [Endocrine Society] 2016 revealed a possible link between bisphenol A exposure in utero to breast cancer later in life. In the process, the researchers created a new bioassay that can test chemicals much faster than typical animal studies. Almost every single person alive today has detectable amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in his or her body, according to the 2015 joint Endocrine Society/IPEN publication Introduction to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): A Guide for Public Interest Organizations and Policy-Makers.

These EDCs — phthalates (plasticizers), bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and others, in their bodies — are hormone-like industrial chemicals that did not even exist 100 or so years ago. Studies on human populations consistently demonstrate associations between the presence of certain chemicals and higher risks of endocrine disorders such as impaired fertility, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

The xenoestrogen BPA is especially prevalent as a component used in rigid plastic products such as compact discs, food and beverage containers, food and formula can linings, and glossy paper receipts. In the case of food containers, when they are heated or scratched, the BPA can seep out into the food and then be ingested. BPA also escapes from water pipes, dental materials, cosmetics, and household products among others and is released into the environment or directly consumed. According to research, such exposures help account for why BPA has been found in the urine of a representative sample of 95% of the U.S. population.

Notably, BPA can cross the placenta in the womb, indirectly exposing the fetus — it has been found in both maternal and fetal serum as well as neonatal placental tissue. Newborns can also be directly exposed through breastfeeding.

The results of a study presented at ENDO 2016 provide compelling support for the idea that fetal exposure to BPA might increase risk for development of breast cancer in adulthood; in fact, it may explain why overall incidence increased in the 20th century. Lucia Speroni, PhD, a research associate and member of the Soto-Sonnenschein lab at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and the study’s lead investigator, reports, “We found that BPA acts directly on the mammary gland and that this effect is dose dependent: A low dose significantly increased ductal growth, whereas a high dose decreased it.”

“Because these effects are similar to those found when exposing the fetus through its mother, our experiment suggests that BPA acts directly on the fetal mammary gland, causing changes to the tissue that have been associated with a higher predisposition to breast cancer later in life,” Speroni explains. In replicating the process of mammary gland development in vitro, this method additionally allows for live observation throughout the whole process.....The lab team had previously shown that the most harmful time for exposure to BPA is during fetal development by causing alterations in the developing mammary gland.

 Two recent articles about BPA (bisphenol A), BPS (bisphenol B), and the "BPA-free" label  - one a study, and one a review article. The "BPA-free" label unfortunately means the product contains a product similar to BPA (typically BPS) and with the same problems as BPA. Both articles discuss the accumulating health reasons to try to avoid these endocrine disruptors. Which is really , really tough to do given that plastics are all around us and used by us every day.

From Science Daily: Prenatal BPA exposure linked to anxiety and depression in boys

Boys exposed prenatally to a common chemical used in plastics may be morelikely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression at age 10-12. The new study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) within the Mailman School of Public Health examined early life exposure to the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). Results are published in the journal Environmental Research.

BPA is a component of some plastics and is found in food containers, plastic water bottles, dental sealants, and thermal receipt paper. In the body, BPA is a synthetic estrogen, one of the class of chemicals known as "endocrine disruptors." The Columbia researchers, led by Frederica Perera, PhD, DrPH, director of CCCEH, previously reported that prenatal exposure to BPA was associated with emotionally reactive and aggressive behavior, and more symptoms of anxiety and depression in boys at age 7-9.

Perera and her co-investigators followed 241 nonsmoking pregnant women and their children, a subset of CCCEH's longstanding urban birth cohort study in New York City, from pregnancy through childhood....Researchers controlled for factors that have been previously associated with BPA exposure levels, including socioeconomic factors. After separating the data by sex, they found that boys with the highest levels of prenatal exposure to BPA had more symptoms of depression and anxiety than boys with lower levels of prenatal exposure to BPA; no such associations were found in girls.

From Endocrine News: Warning Signs: How Safe Is “BPA Free?”

While stickers are showing up declaring certain products “BPA Free,” that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe. Could bisphenol S be even worse than the compound it is supposed to be replacing? 

Human exposure to BPA is as ubiquitous as the stickers showing up now that proclaim products BPA free. The chemical used to make plastic has been linked to all kinds of reproductive issues, and even thought to play a role in the development of obesity and cardiovascular events, so industry is taking some steps to correct the problem (after much wailing and gnashing of teeth on their part). These stickers read “BPA FREE” and “NON-TOXIC PLASTIC” in bold letters and usually feature leaves and a green motif, the implication being that these products are safe and healthy. 

But “BPA free” does not mean “EDC free” [endocrine disruptor free] and many products now contain bisphenol S as a substitute for BPA. BPS is a similar chemical and has been found in everything from canned soft drinks to receipt paper to baby bottles. (The FDA banned BPA in baby bottles.) It’s been found in indoor dust samples and is beginning to show up in human urine, and it has been reported to be less biodegradable than BPA. Animal studies have implicated BPS in impaired offspring development. And the production of BPS is increasing annually.

“Recent studies testing BPS and comparing it to BPA show that BPS is as bad, if not worse, than BPA as an EDC,” says Andrea Gore, PhD, professor and Vacek Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Texas in Austin, and editor-in-chief of Endocrinology. “’BPA free’ can give consumers a false sense of security about the product.”

According to Kimberly H. Cox, a postdoctoral fellow studying reproductive endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the effects of BPA and BPS are subtler than say, PCBs or pesticides, where exposures came at high levels, with devastating effects. The effects of BPA and BPS depend on the timing, length, and dose of exposure, and numerous studies have shown that there are effects on the reproductive system, for example, at doses of BPA much lower than what has been determined as a “safe” exposure by the EPA. And now there also seem to be effects of BPS on the development of the reproductive system, as well as the brain regions that control reproduction.

“When endocrinologists talk about BPA, they frequently describe it as estrogenic – and do not point out the other endocrine systems that are being altered, such as thyroid hormone,” Wayne says. “Our paper emphasizes that BPA and BPS are activating both estrogenic and thyroid hormone pathways. This suggests that EDCs are having much broader effects on health and disease than just mimicking estrogens (which is bad enough).”

  More and more studies are finding negative health effects from hormone disrupting chemicals (which we are exposed to every single day, and subsequently which are in all of us), such as parabens, phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and chemical substitutes for BPA such as Bisphenol-S (BPS) and BPF.  The last post had some recent studies that looked at health effects of hormone disrupting chemicals. The following article points out some of the many difficulties in developing packaging that is safe and doesn't leach endocrine disrupting chemicals or even other chemicals.

We generally focus on hormone disrupting chemicals in plastic bottles or metal cans (which their epoxy liners), but other parts of packaging may (or may not) also leach chemicals. Some leaching may occur with the adhesives used to seal foil pouches, and the polypropylene inner layers also may leach stabilizers. Glass jars are OK, but jar lids may be equipped with BPA-based epoxy liners and/or gaskets that leach plasticizers. Greaseproof wrappers may leach poly- and perfluorinated compounds used to make some packaging greaseproof (may occur if packaging is from India and China - because it is legal to import into USA and use).  Some ceramic kitchenware - the glazes used in artisanal pottery and older mass produced ceramics may leach toxic metals, especially lead. There can even be "offset migration" which occurs when the printed outer surface of food packaging transfers chemicals to the inner food-contact surface.  Whew...

Bottom line: Even BPA alternatives (labeled BPA-free) should be viewed as the same as BPA (as endocrine disruptors) - in other words, currently there are no good BPA substitutes. Read labels and try to minimize plastics in personal care products (e.g., lotion, fragrances) and your food if possible (e.g., choose glass, stainless steel, wax paper, aluminum foil). This is especially important during pregnancy.  Don't microwave food in a plastic dish or container, or covered with plastic wrap. Eat fresh foods and try to avoid soda cans and other packaged, processed foods, especially in plastic containers or metal cans. From Environmental Health Perspectives: A Hard Nut to Crack: Reducing Chemical Migration in Food-Contact Materials

When we buy food, we’re often buying packaging, too. From cherries to Cheez-It® crackers, modern foods are processed, transported, stored, and sold in specialized materials that account, on average, for half the cost of the item, according to Joseph Hotchkiss, a professor in Michigan State University’s School of Packaging. Consumer-level food packaging serves a wide range of functions, such as providing product information, preventing spoilage, and protecting food during the journey from production to retail to pantry, fridge, or freezer. That’s why food producers lavish so much time and money on it.

But what happens when these valuable and painstakingly engineered containers leach chemicals and other compounds into the food and drink they’re designed to protect? Such contamination is nearly ubiquitous; it happens every day, everywhere packaged food is found, with all common types of packaging, including glass, metal, paper, and plastic. Even as awareness of the issue grows, large-scale solutions that are scientifically and financially viable remain out of reach. The challenges in reaching them are many.

People around the world are familiar with bisphenol A (BPA) and concerns about its migration into food and drink from plastic bottles, metal cans, and other consumer products. ....In recent years U.S. manufacturers voluntarily abandoned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant-formula packaging, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally ended its authorizations of these uses thereafter. Beyond our borders, several other countries have banned BPA from some infant products, including Canada, the European Union, South Africa, China, Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador. France went even further with its recently implemented ban of BPA from all packaging, containers, and utensils that come into contact with food.

BPA is just one of many known or suspected endocrine disruptors commonly found in food packaging that can migrate into food and drink. Furthermore, endocrine disruptors from plastics are far from the only class of potentially harmful chemicals that can leach into food or drink from food packaging; depending on factors including temperature, storage time, and physicochemical properties, a wide variety of compounds—including components of coatings and films, adhesives and glues, and inks and pigments—can migrate from packaging materials.

Sure enough, in some applications BPA was replaced with other bisphenols, including BPS and BPF, which laboratory experiments indicate have estrogenic effects at least as pronounced as those of BPA. In others, including baby bottles, polycarbonates were replaced by alternative plastics with migration issues of their own. Chemists are now on the hunt for effective alternatives to BPA. To date no one has identified any drop-in fixes that will work in all the same applications, for the same or a lesser cost, with an established lack of estrogenic activity (now known in the marketplace as “EA-free”).

But full-scale solutions remain at least a few iterations away, says John Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. “Something like reinventing plastic isn’t going to happen in a day, a month, or a year,” he says.... Much of Warner’s personal research centers on developing biobased plastics (i.e., derived from renewable biomass sources) that are safer, cheaper, and as effective as traditional fossil-fuel plastics for food packaging. However, plant-based plastics still may contain some of the same harmful additives and manufacturing by-products (known as non-intentionally added substances) that can migrate into food and drink.

While it’s clear that a number of packaging manufacturers are eager to switch to alternative packaging whether required to or not, progress to date has been incremental at best

Some nongovernmental organizations are taking steps to get specific chemicals removed from food packaging. Within the last year the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has teamed with citizens’ groups in petitioning the FDA to withdraw its decades old approvals of a handful of chemicals, including perchlorate, an endocrine disruptor used to produce rubber gaskets and to reduce static charge in plastic dry-food packaging, and long-chain perfluorocarboxylates, used to greaseproof paper and paperboard. The latter have been largely abandoned by U.S. manufacturers but increasingly are employed in India and China and are still legal to import and use, says Tom Neltner, an independent consultant.

Maricel Maffini, a consultant and former senior scientist with the NRDC, is concerned that the development of safer alternatives is being hampered by a lack of regulatory incentives and oversight. “There is no regulatory pressure for innovation,” she says. “And when [manufacturers] do take the initiative to go for an alternative, we don’t know the safety profile of that alternative, we don’t know the exposure, we don’t know if it gets metabolized when it gets into the environment. So there are still a lot of systemic improvements that we need.”