Smarter Living: Chemical Index
Bisphenol A (BPA) is the primary component in polycarbonate plastic and is used in the resin lining of most food and beverage cans. Exposure to BPA, a hormone-mimicking compound, is linked in animal studies to early puberty and other reproductive harms.
In animal studies, BPA has been shown to mimic the female hormone estrogen. Exposure among test animals to this chemical early in life is associated with:
- Pre-cancerous changes in the mammary and prostate glands;
- Altered development of the brain causing behavioral abnormalities and earlier onset of puberty;
- Reproductive abnormalities such as lower sperm counts, hormonal changes, enlarged prostate glands, and abnormalities in the number of chromosomes in eggs;
- Obesity and with insulin resistance, a condition that commonly precedes the development of diabetes.
There is concern that BPA may cause similar health problems in humans. More than 90 percent of the general population has BPA in their bodies, at levels close to those which have been shown to cause harm in animal studies.
Where it is Found
BPA is used in the resin lining of all food and beverage cans. It is the principal building block of polycarbonate plastic and is used in a wide range of products, including clear plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, clear plastic water bottles, and other kitchen plastics such as measuring cups, drinkware and storage containers. BPA is also found in some dental sealants and fillings, medical devices, paints, epoxy adhesives and cash register receipts.
A number of canned foods and plastic bottle manufacturers have stopped using BPA, though because there is no labeling requirement, consumers do not know which products contain BPA and which don't.
- Don't use polycarbonate plastics (marked with a #7 PC) for storing food or beverages, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or the food or drink is for an infant or young child.
- Avoid canned beverages, foods and soups, especially if pregnant or feeding young children. Choose frozen vegetables and soups and broth that come in glass jars or in aseptic "brick" cartons, as these containers are BPA-free.
- Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.
- Don’t allow your dentist to apply dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE) to either yours or your child's teeth. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.
Some local and state legislatures have banned the use of BPA in children's products, but the major source of exposure for most people is through contaminated food. To reduce this exposure, the FDA should revoke its approval of BPA as a food additive, which would spur companies to develop and use safer alternatives.
In April 2010, legislation was introduced to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a critical step toward ensuring the safety of chemicals in the home, the workplace and the marketplace.
Calafat, A. M., et al. (2005). "Urinary concentrations of bisphenol A and 4-nonylphenol in a human reference population." Environ Health Perspect 113(4): 391-5.
Cone, Marla. "FDA shifts stance on BPA, announces 'some concern' about children's health." Environmental Health News, January 15, 2010.
Heimeier, R. A., B. Das, et al. (2009). "The xenoestrogen bisphenol A inhibits postembryonic vertebrate development by antagonizing gene regulation by thyroid hormone." Endocrinology:150(6):2964-73.
Lang, I. A., et al. (2008). "Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults." JAMA 300(11): 1303-1310.
National Toxicology Program, Bisphenol A Evaluation. September 2008 NIH Publication No. 08 – 5994.
Newbold, R., et al. (2009). "Environmental estrogens and obesity." Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 304(1-2): 84-89.
vom Saal, F. S., et al. (2007). "Chapel Hill bisphenol A expert panel consensus statement: integration of mechanisms, effects in animals and potential to impact human health at current levels of exposure." Reprod Toxicol 24(2): 131-8.
Read NRDC's factsheet on bisphenol A.
last revised 12/28/2011