In recent years, there have been concerns over the amount of BPA in consumer plastics. This compound, also called Bisphenol A, was suspected to cause serious health problems. This public hysteria of BPA was fueled by studies in which researches showed adverse health problems, including cancer, in animals injected with large quantities. Since then, Wal-Mart has stopped carrying all products with BPA; Nalgene, Playtex, and other plastic makers have stopped using it in their products. Though people avoid BPA, many have little understanding of the chemical itself and how it is poisonous to the body.
Understanding BPA and Its Uses
Bisphenol A is a polar, organic molecule that has no color and is a solid at room temperature. With two phenol rings, the molecular structure contains 15 carbon atoms and 2 oxygen atoms. Chemical engineers use it as chemical reagents and building blocks to develop other complex organic products, such as polycarbonate chains. Companies have used these BPA-based polycarbonate chains to construct plastics since the 1960s, when the BPA methodology was first incorporated. BPA was a gold standard throughout the 1990s as a source to create plastic. It provided durable, high quality plastic that could be both clear and very cheap, which are qualities coveted by plastic manufacturers. The chemical is found in many household items such as water bottles, baby bottles, and other non-disposable plastics (plates, cups, etc.). BPA has proven versatile, and is used to create epoxy resins, too. Epoxy resins are the primary polymers used to construct water lines, food cans, and other consumer products. As these products are distributed and used, part of this chemical erodes from the plastic and seeps into the bodies of consumers. This ingestion of BPA is minute. Researchers estimate that less than a half microgram of BPA is present in the body for every one pound of body weight.
BPA in the Body: Why It Is Harmful
For years, it was suspected that this chemical could induce harmful effects in the body, but with concentrations being so low and no evidence to rely on, the chemical continued to be used. Then in 2008, researchers started to demonstrate how BPA poses a serious health threat when exposed to individuals over extended periods of time. In their experiment series, they pumped high concentrations of BPA into lab rats. These rats eventually developed a host of metabolic disorders including prostate and breast abnormalities. They also observed infant rats thwarted into puberty prematurely causing sever cognitive abnormalities and neural defects. Since 2008, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute of Health (NIH), and other regulatory commissions worked collectively to investigate the potential risk of BPA.
After a world-wide effort with over 30 billion dollars spent, the US administrative bodies have gained a better understanding of BPA. Scientists have learned that the chemical structure of BPA resembles that of an estrogen hormone called estradiol. This interferes with the natural endocrine balance in the body and induces a range of negative side effects. Studies published in the summer of 2012 suggest that the BPA itself is not the major causative agent, but the chemical created after BPA is broken down in the body. BPA is broken down in the body to MBP, which selectively binds to estrogen-binding proteins and disables their functionality. Consequently, these estrogen-binding proteins cannot transport estrogen, and diseases induced by estrogen shortages proliferate throughout the body.
Government Response Research is continued in order to acquire more knowledge on this threatening agent. Though BPA is not suspected to be harmful to older children or adults, it should not be exposed to pregnant mothers or infants. It causes hormonal imbalances that lead to reduced thyroid performance for pregnant women and infants. Additionally, it can stimulate early puberty, which leads to neural and reproductive diseases. It is also suspected to cause cancers, tumors, obesity, and impotence. Therefore, in early August of 2012, a law went into effect that banned the usage of BPA in baby bottles and cups. Other countries around the world have also limited its usage.
Picture Credit- Evidence Based Living
Byline: Aaron Gormley recommends finding and using safe and inexpensive research chemicals.