Is BPA Regulated?
One would assume that such a scary chemical would be banned by the government, or, if not, at the very least regulated. However, BPA has been around for about 120 years and its use in plastic began in the 1950s – 20 years after the first evidence of BPA toxicity. Why has it taken 100 years for the government to start taking action?
Depending on who you talk to today, BPA is either completely harmless or a dangerous toxin. The plastics industry continues to repeat that BPA is perfectly safe. Hundreds of published studies and lab animal tests, however, conclude that exposure to the chemical, even at very low doses, can cause serious health problems. In fact, the plastic industry funded studies, eleven in all, have been heavily criticized for being flawed.
Even with this mounting evidence of the dangers of BPA, not a single American regulatory agency has taken action to update safety standards concerning it. Finally, however, the risks associated with BPA, and the inaction of the FDA to address them, have come to the attention of a few agencies and government officials. Canada has gone as far as to ban the chemical, labeling it as a toxin.
On April 16, 2008, in a historic shift from previous regulatory and official opinion on BPA’s safety, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) raised concerns that exposure to BPA during pregnancy and childhood could impact breast and prostate development, hasten puberty, and affect behavior in children.
The FDA has yet to act in amending its safety standards, but Congress has taken notice. Two Congressional investigations have been launched against the FDA concerning the agency’s decision to keep BPA on the market as a safe product. These investigations have begun to shed light on the influence of the plastics industry on the FDA. It has also brought vast attention to the risks that BPA poses. Wal-Mart and some other retailers have stated that they will phase out selling BPA contaminated products. But, of course, this means that they will only stop selling these products once their current stock is sold.
Studies on the Effects of BPA
Below are examples of more recent studies and how they show a solid link between the ingestion of BPA with the growing health problems of the human population.
BPA has been linked to increased cancer cell growth. A number of studies have shown that exposure to the chemical while in the womb results in breast cancer during adulthood. One such study, conducted in 2006 by T.J. Murray and colleagues from the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine, found that prenatal exposure to low doses of BPA increased the risk of developing breast cancer during adult life.
This hypothesis was paralleled in a more recent study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. During the study, conducted by Dr. Ana Soto and colleagues, pregnant female mice were given doses of BPA that fell within the range of expected human exposure. They found that “female mice exposed to BPA in utero from days eight to eighteen of fetal development experience alterations in mammary gland development.”
Numerous studies have also linked low doses of BPA with prostate disease and cancer. One such study showed that when receiving very low doses of BPA in its fetus stage, a developing mouse had increased prostate size due to hyperplasia.
Chromosome Sorting Errors
In 1998, Dr. Patricia Hunt and her colleagues made an accidental but dramatic discovery. During her original research, which did not involve the testing of BPA, Dr. Hunt was shocked to find chromosome errors in the mice she was studying. These mice were being kept in plastic cages and being fed water out of plastic bottles when the research team noticed the chromosomal errors. Dr. Hunt was able to trace the effect to the Polycarbonate cages and water bottles.
Through more extensive research she discovered that BPA can cause chromosomes to sort incorrectly, even at very low doses. The incorrect sorting and lining up of these chromosomes can in turn result in deceases like Down’s syndrome, Turner Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome. The findings confirmed that extremely low doses of BPA exposure are linked to an error in cell division called aneuploidy, which may be the culprit in causing up to 20% of all birth defects.
Dr. Hunt made another shocking discovery. Her research found that BPA can lead to chromosomal abnormalities that are able to affect future generations. This means that a pregnant mother ingesting BPA can be directly affecting her future grandchild’s health. After replacing all the caging materials to non-polycarbonate ones, all cell division returned to normal. The results of Dr. Hunt’s research were published in 2003.
Impaired Brain Development
Bisphenol A is known to mimic the action of the hormone estrogen. Some studies have found that in parts of the brain, BPA can have the effect of restricting estrogenic activity. The natural estrogen in a human body usually regulates viability and increases the growth of connections between neurons. There is grave concern that the inhibitory effects of BPA can lead to altered brain development.
Mounting evidence from recent years show that this BPA altered brain development, lead to a number of different potential problems, including hyperactivity and increased aggression, changes in response to painful and fear provoking stimuli, impaired learning and memory as well as other problems.
A 2003 study, which administered BPA to pregnant mice, found that exposure to BPA in the male fetus led to increased aggressive reactions and behaviors. A Japanese study, published in 2004, found that five-day-old male rats exposed to low doses of BPA exhibited significant hyperactivity at four to five weeks of age.
Another study published in 2004 found that male offspring of rats exposed to BPA significantly failed to avoid being electrically shocked by contacting the same apparatus compared with the control offspring. This revealed that exposure to BPA could have an effect on the developing brain, causing seriously impaired memory
Obesity and Diabetes
BPA has been associated with changes in pancreas and thyroid function, as well as the increased secretion of insulin, which can lead to Type II Diabetes, obesity and hypertension. In 2002, a Japanese team of researchers at the Ehime College of Health Science discovered that BPA can increase the conversion of embryonic cells into fat cells. Cells treated with BPA also increased their fat content by 150 percent over 11 days. This experiment documented that BPA could trigger and promote the two main processes in developing obesity.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Paloma Alonso Magdalena and her research team unveiled the link between environmental estrogens, such as BPA, and insulin resistance. Their research found that the chronic exposure (at levels currently found in humans) to BPA caused insulin resistance in adult mice. Insulin resistance is a precursor to Type II Diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease in humans.
Reproductive Development and Sperm Defects
BPA has been linked to both sperm defects in males and impaired female reproductive development. Dr. Motoharu Sakaue and his colleagues in Japan independently discovered that BPA reduces the number of sperm in rats, even when given doses after puberty. After feeding small doses to rats, they noted a generalized decline in the ability of treated rats to produce sperm. These scientists concluded that BPA retarded the development of sperm cells that normally takes place as the male rat’s reproductive system matures. They further concluded that the effects occurred in a dose range “relevant to the daily level of exposure in man.”
A few years earlier, Dr, Frederick vom Saal and his colleagues alsolinked exposure to BPA with reduced sperm production. They discovered, in their 1998 study, that males born to rats exposed to BPA produced 20% less sperm after they matured that normal males.
In a study published in 2002, researchers discovered that exposure to estrogenic compounds, such as BPA, during critical periods of fetal development could result in adverse effects on the development of reproductive organs which do not become apparent until later in life. During the study, pregnant rats given low doses of BPA gave birth to female rats with vaginal deformations. The researchers concluded that these deformations were triggered by a disruption of the estrogen signal required for normal development.
Health Problems Associated with BPA
The leaching of BPA from the polycarbonate plastics and the polycarbonate plastic lining of containers is particularly alarming in light of the serious health risks associated with BPA ingestion. More than 200 lab animal tests to date strongly suggest that BPA exposure, even at very low doses, creates risks of dangerous developmental, neural and reproductive health effects in infants and children.
Exposure to BPA, even at low and short-term doses, is linked to a staggering number of health problems, including:
- breast cancer
- prostate disease and cancer
- impaired, altered, and compromised immune system and functions
- impaired female reproductive development
- sperm defects
- lowered sperm count
- chromosome abnormalities
- chromosome sorting errors
- Down’s syndrome
- Turner Syndrome
- Klinefelter Syndrome
- genitalia deformity
- early onset of puberty
- impaired learning and memory
- increased aggression
- reversal of normal sex differences in the brain structure
- elimination of sex differences in behavior
- changes in response to painful or fear-provoking stimuli
Our attorneys at Baum Hedlund are no longer taking cases related to BPA. However, if you have another concern about a product defect, contact our team at (855) 948-5098 today.