American health fears over gender bender chemical

Concern in the USA is growing over the potential health impacts of an oestrogen-mimicking chemical widely used in the manufacture of plastics.

The possible dangers of Bisphenol A (BPA) have long been a bone of contention between environmentalists and the chemical industry but this week the US National Toxicology Programme published a report on the substance which rekindled the flames of debate.

The report concluded that there was valid reason to be concerned about the chemical’s effect on neurological and sexual development of children, infants and foetuses but that impacts on adults was likely to be negligible.

Children are at particular risk because they have not fully developed the bodily functions to safely process the chemical and, in ratio to their size, eat more than adults- with food being the main source of exposure to BPA.

BPA is most commonly encountered in plastic baby bottles, water bottles, food containers and linings of tin cans.

Tests on laboratory animals show that even low levels of exposure to BPA can can cause changes in behaviour and the brain, prostate gland, mammary gland and the age at which females attain puberty.

“These studies only provide limited evidence for adverse effects on development and more research is needed to better understand their implications for human health,” says the NTP study.

“However, because these effects in animals occur at bisphenol A exposure levels similar to those experienced by humans, the possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed.”

Research into BPA exposure is a growth area in American academia at the moment.

Earlier this year, scientists from the University of Cincinnati published findings that bottles containing BPA released more of the chemical into their contents when heated – raising fears among parents who sterilise plastic baby bottles by boiling them.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie