Toxic Tuesdays

CHEJ highlights several toxic chemicals and the communities fighting to keep their citizens safe from harm.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA stands for Bisphenol A and is a man-made chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics. It is found in a large number of everyday products such as eyewear, water bottles, and epoxy resins that coat some metal food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.

BPA is a concerning chemical because it is one of those compounds that is in almost everything we use or come in contact with. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2003 and 2004 found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of people sampled six years and older.

While air, dust, and water are possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages is the main source of exposure for most people. BPA has been observed to leach into food from the internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods. Other items that contain BPA which come in contact with food or drinking water such as polycarbonate eating utensils, food storage containers, and water bottles can also contaminate food with BPA.

Although research into the effects of BPA in humans is not conclusive, there is mounting evidence for classifying BPA as an endocrine-disrupting compound (EDC). EDCs affect human health by disrupt hormones during key developmental stages of growth. For this reason, they can cause many different adverse health outcomes including damage to sperm quality, reduced fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, early puberty, reduced immune function, and certain cancers. BPA, specifically, seems to mirror the hormone estrogen, and studies in animals have shown decreased levels of testosterone, atrophy of male genitalia, and fertility problems.

The National Resources Defense Council put together a few tips on how to avoid BPA products here. Given the uncertainty and potential severity of BPA’s health effects, it is a good idea to be proactive and avoid unnecessary exposures to it.

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