Bisphenol A or BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make plastics and epoxy resins, which are used to coat the inside of metal products. Some dental composites and sealants may likewise contain BPA. Brent A. Bauer, M.D., US board certified in internal medicine, shares that BPA can seep into our beverages and food from containers that are made with BPA. This is why it has been a health concern. Yet, the US FDA said that BPA is safe as long as they are at the very low levels that occur in some foods.
High BPA levels and risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality
A new study conducted by Wei Bao, MD, PhD. from the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Iowa and colleagues highlights the seriousness of the threat posed by a said chemical used in thermal papers and can linings. The researchers said that people who had higher levels of BPA in their urine were about 49% at greater risk of death within 10 years.
To come up with such findings, the team included 3,883 US adults aged 20 years or older who are a part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2008. These participants provided urine samples for BPA level measurements. The team then quantified the urinary BPA levels using online solid-phase extraction and high-performance liquid chromatography-isotope dilution.
Study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health, told Tennessee news provider WVLT that their finding is another piece of the puzzle that speaks how serious BPA can be.
BPA in plastic water bottles
BPA has been used in making polycarbonate plastics, including water bottles. The chemical can also be found in beverage containers, compact disks, plastic dinnerware, toys, impact-resistant safety equipment, car parts, and the lining of canned foods, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most common BPA exposure of people is through food that is contaminated by the linings of beverages and cans. Our next level of exposure is through thermal paper used in creating receipts at almost every store, Trasande added.
A straightforward way to avoid exposure to BPA is by saying no to thermal paper receipt. Previous studies also show that using hand sanitizer is the gateway for chemicals to absorb in the body. If you use hand sanitizer and handle thermal paper receipts, you are absorbing tenfold more BPA into your body, the study author said.
To limit your exposure, avoid canned food consumption as much as possible as they are a major source of BPA exposure. There are also other ways to protect yourself and your family. It includes not microwaving foods in plastic containers. Choosing stainless steel or glass, not plastic, when storing and buying foods. Buying frozen, fresh, or dried foods if you can. The plastic bags on frozen food are not a concern as long as you don’t microwave them, Trasande continued. Also, opt for email instead of thermal paper receipts.
The team concluded that further studies are needed to replicate their findings in other populations as their subjects are limited to US people only. If they can conduct further studies, it could help them determine the underlying mechanisms. They mention how widespread exposure to BPA has been a major public health concern. In the US, 12 states and Washington DC has already implemented restrictions against BPA, the authors added. In Europe, the European Chemical Agency likewise added BPA to the Candidate List of substances that are of very high concern.
Endocrine-disrupting effects of BPA exposure
Animal studies have pointed out that BPA has endocrine-disrupting effects. BPA absorption into the body can lead to the development of metabolic disorders, such as immune toxicity, interference and neurotoxicity of the cellular pathways, and low sex-specific neurodevelopment. BPA exposure can also accelerate atherosclerosis, decrease atrial contraction rate and force, induce cardiac arrhythmias, and lead to cardiac remodeling in animals.
In 2013, BPA has been linked to obesity in young girls as well. Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, said that exercising too little and eating too much are important factors contributing to the obesity epidemic. However, these factors cannot explain the steep increase in the obesity rate in the last three decades. People have not exercised that much and changed their eating habits.
The environmental culprit that the team found is BPA. Li and the team studied 1,326 school-aged kids in Shanghai, China, and measured the BPA levels in their urine. In girls between 9 to 12 years old, higher BPA urine levels were linked with a doubled risk of obesity. Their study appeared on CNN. As BPA urine levels increased, so did the obesity risk of the girls. This was based on their weight about weight distribution. The researchers also found that neither boys nor girls outside the 9-12 age range experience the risk of being obese or overweight even if there’s a high level of BPA in their urine. They theorized that girls are more sensitive to the environmental impact and they don’t know exactly the reason why.
Bisphenol A production in the US
According to Statista, the production of Bisphenol A amounted to a total of 1.03 million metric tons in 2000 and declined to 940,000 metric tons in 2005. In 2019, the production volume of BPA amounted to 1.03 million metric tons, a slight decrease from 1.06 million in 2018.
Countries that consume the most bottled water include China (10.42 billion gallons per year), USA (10.13 billion gallons), Mexico (8.23 billion gallons), Indonesia (4.82 billion gallons), Brazil (4.80 billion gallons), Thailand (3.99 billion gallons), Italy (3.17 billion gallons), Germany (3.11 billion gallons), France (2.41 billion gallons), and India (1.04 billion gallons). This is according to the World Atlas.
To no surprise, countries that consume the most bottled water also have the highest rates of pollution and have the lowest recycling. Switzerland is the country with the highest rate of recycling. A whopping 52% of its waste is recycled. Such amount is nearly double than the US’ rates of recycling. Next on the list is Austria with 49.7%, followed by Germany (48%), the Netherlands (46%), and Norway (40%).
Steps to limit or eliminate human exposure to BPA must be taken. If you're concerned about BPA, you can also use BPA-free products, reduce your use of canned foods, and use alternatives to plastic containers.