For years we've been covering bisphenol-a, an endocrine disrupter used in various food containers (plastic bottles, can linings, etc) that exhibits hormone-like properties and which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified as a possible hazard to fetuses, infants, and young children in 2010. Over the years, awareness of the dangers of BPA kept rising until many manufacturers started producing 'BPA-free' containers and can, advertising that fact prominently.
What few know is that bisphenol-a is often replaced with bisphenol-s, another plastic strengthener. A new study published in the journal Endocrinology shows that this might not have been such a wise move...
"Our study shows that making plastic products with BPA alternatives does not necessarily leave them safer," explained senior author Nancy Wayne, a reproductive endocrinologist and a professor of physiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Using a zebrafish model, the study authors found that exposure to low levels of BPA and BPS--equivalent to the traces found in polluted river waters -- altered the animals' physiology at the embryonic stage in as quickly as 25 hours.
"Egg hatching time accelerated, leading to the fish equivalent of premature birth," said Wayne, who is also UCLA's associate vice chancellor for research. "The embryos developed much faster than normal in the presence of BPA or BPS."
One hypothesis is that these endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be contributing to the rise in premature human births and early onset of puberty that has been observed over the past couple of decades in the Unites States (and elsewhere).
"Our data support that hypothesis," said Wayne. "If BPA is impacting a wide variety of animal species, then it's likely to be affecting human health. Our study is the latest to help show this with BPA and now with BPS."
So 'BPA-free' might not be enough. Maybe we just shouldn't be so specific, and instead aim for 'endocrine-disruptor-free' or something like that...