Bisphenol X – Know What You Are Consuming
By Jim Clugger
Regrettable substitutions for Bisphenol A (BPA) leave consumers of certain plastic products with only bad options.
Over the past decade, negative consumer sentiment towards BPA resulted in its replacement with other bisphenol chemicals in food and beverage containers. Replacement bisphenols allow brands and manufacturers to claim that a plastic is “BPA Free” without significantly changing the manufacturing process or health risk.
Bisphenols are found in 90% of the US population. Exposure results from the chemical leaching into foods and beverages from plastic and plastic-lined containers. Even though scientific research points to negative health impacts from bisphenol exposure, regulation of these chemicals remain light.
Scientists continue to study the bisphenol group of chemicals and concerns persist around food safety. Consumers who are troubled by health risks associated with bisphenols can rely on guidance from the NIH, FDA, California Department of Public Health (CDPH), among other US states. Uniformly, they recommend using glass, porcelain, or stainless-steel containers, particularly for hot food or drinks.
BPA is produced in the highest volumes among the bisphenol family, resulting in the highest levels of human exposure. According to the California Department of Public Health, BPA may harm the reproductive system in women, interfere with the body’s natural hormones, affect the development of fetuses and behavior of infants, and increase cancer risk. Health concerns have also prompted regulatory action in the USA and Canada to limit the use of BPA in certain products, such as baby bottles.
Based on a literature review of more than 300 scientific studies, the FDA found that BPA is safe at current levels occurring in foods. However, the FDA continues to monitor BPA research. A recent JAMA investigation studied 3883 participants over 10 years and found higher levels of BPA in the urine were associated with a 49% increase in death over the observation period. It is unclear if this latest research will change FDA guidance, but it is clear that questions around the safety of BPA remain and consumers are increasingly choosing to avoid the risks associated with BPA.
Manufacturers are paying attention to consumer sentiment. Some products formerly associated with BPA, like water bottles, now proudly display a “BPA Free” label. In some cases, the chemical function of BPA in plastic products is now performed by another bisphenol, like Bisphenol S (BPS), Bisphenol F (BPF), or Bisphenol B (BPB). In fact, the bisphenol family of chemicals is an alphabet soup of bisphenol variants containing 23 different chemicals. With so many chemicals and the length of time required to run proper long-term exposure studies it is difficult for scientists and regulators to keep up with chemical manufacturers leaving the safety of many chemicals unknown. However, some of the more abundant bisphenol variants have been studied.
A recent literature review published in Nutrients found that BPS is equally as bad or worse for human health compared to BPA regarding increased obesity, metabolic disorders, reproductive toxicity, and promotion of certain breast cancers. The authors suggest BPS should be regulated along with BPA.
The CDPH warns against many of the same health risks, stating BPS may interfere with the body’s natural hormones, affect the reproductive system, and harm the developing fetus and infant. However, the chemical remains unregulated in the state of California and is not included on The Proposition 65 list, which requires labeling of hazardous chemicals. BPS remains unregulated at the federal level as well.
BPF is less studied than BPA or BPS but initial results are not favorable. Studies have shown that BPF is as hormonally active as BPA and has similar endocrine disrupting effects, reproductive toxicity has been shown in animal models, and detection in urine is linked to increase risk of obesity.
The CDPH warns BPF may interfere with the body’s natural hormones. However, like BPS, BPF remains unregulated at the state and federal level along with the many other bisphenol chemicals that have received even less attention.