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Study On Bisphenol A (BPA): Health effects in monkeys raises breast cancer concerns.
By Renee Schoof
The research was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For this study, the researchers fed pregnant rhesus macaques a piece of fruit containing BPA every day during their third trimester of pregnancy. The monkeys’ blood levels of BPA reached about the average level that BPA has been observed in human blood in the United States, said Patricia Hunt, a geneticist at Washington State University and one of the study’s authors.
After female offspring of these BPA-exposed monkeys were born, the researchers looked at their mammary glands. They found changes in the glands that give rise to dense tissue – something that in humans is a risk factor for breast cancer, Hunt said.
BPA is used mainly in polycarbonate plastics, such as those used for some kinds of food and drink packaging, and epoxy resins used in some food cans and other products. Scientists say it mainly enters the human body as a result of leaching from the packaging into food and drink.
Previous studies in mice have shown a correlation between changes in the mammary gland as a result of fetal BPA exposure and an increased risk of cancer later, as adults. The chemical industry argued that BPA-exposed mice might not be a good model for understanding the effects on humans, Hunt said. But the new study found the same results in primates, which are more similar to humans.
“This monkey study closes the gap between rodents and humans and suggests that we have much to fear from this chemical,” she said.
Earlier studies by Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein, also authors of the new study, found that exposing rodents to small amounts of BPA could change their mammary gland development and lead to pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions when the animals exposed as fetuses became adults.
“We think that our results suggest that it is very likely that fetal exposure to BPA would also increase the propensity to develop mammary cancer in monkeys,” Soto said.
The sum of all the findings “strongly suggest that BPA is a breast carcinogen in humans and human exposure to BPA should be curtailed,” she said.
The Food and Drug Administration has said that BPA is safe. On March 30, the FDA rejected a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban it. The FDA then said that more studies were needed.
The American Chemistry Council said the new study was faulty and didn’t alter its view that BPA is safe. Other studies have convinced regulators in the U.S., Europe and Japan that BPA isn’t a carcinogenic hazard, said the council’s Steven Hentges.
“It’s hard to see the study’s relevance to humans, as only four or five animals were tested and the dose used was 10,000 times higher than typical human exposure to BPA, as documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s large-scale biomonitoring studies,” Hentges said Monday in a written response when asked for comment about the study.
Hunt, however, said that researchers gave the monkeys the dose needed to reach levels in the monkeys’ blood that were similar to the amount of BPA in human bodies.
FDA spokesman Curtis Allen said the FDA would take the new report into consideration. “FDA has been studying and continues to study the effects of BPA and will make any necessary changes to BPA’s status based on the science,” he said.
The National Toxicology Program in 2008 found that studies showed reason for concern about the potential effects of current exposures of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. At the time, the National Toxicology Program, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that this concern level was in the middle _ the third level of a five-level scale of concern from serious to negligible. It reported minimal concern, the fourth level on the scale, for effects on the mammary gland and earlier puberty for females.
email: email@example.com; Twitter: @reneeschoof
More Facts: Questions and Answers About BPA
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What is BPA? Should I be worried about it?
What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA?
- Mayo Clinic nutritionist
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.
In particular, BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles, and baby bottles and cups. They may also be used in toys and other consumer goods. Epoxy resins can be used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, baby formula cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites also may contain BPA. And certain thermal paper products, such as cash register receipts, may contain BPA.
Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA or into your body when you handle products made with BPA. BPA remains controversial, and research studies are continuing. The American Chemistry Council, an association that represents plastics manufacturers, contends that BPA poses no risk to human health.
But the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services says it has “some concern” about the possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. This level of concern is midway on its five-level scale, which ranges from serious to negligible. The Food and Drug Administration now shares this level of concern and is taking steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply by finding alternatives to BPA in food containers.
In the meantime, if you’re concerned about BPA, you can take steps to minimize your exposure by:
- Seeking out BPA-free products. This may not always be easy to do, of course. Some manufacturers label their products as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that most aluminum cans or bottles have linings that contain BPA, while steel bottles or cans don’t. Polycarbonate plastic is generally hard, clear, lightweight plastic. It often has the No. 7 recycling symbol on the bottom.
- Microwave cautiously. The National Toxicology Program advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics, although the American Chemistry Council says this is safe. The plastics can break down over time, possibly causing BPA to leach into food.
- Wash safely. The National Toxicology Program advises against washing polycarbonate plastics in the dishwasher using harsh detergents, although the American Chemistry Council says this is safe.
- Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.
- Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since many cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”6 Health Dangers of BPA” height=”auto”]
Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used in plastics and canned food linings. It is an organic compound that acts similarly to estrogen when ingested into the body. A growing number of health experts and consumers are becoming concerned about the adverse health effects that can be caused from high-dose or long-term exposure to BPA.
1. Heart Disease
The most recent study regarding BPA has shown a confirmed link to heart disease. Researchers from England reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and found that men with the highest levels of BPA exposure, as determined from urinary samples, were 10% more likely to develop heart disease. BPA is thought to suppress a hormone that protects people from having heart attacks, oxidative stress, and damages to the endothelial cells of blood vessels.
2. Intestinal Damage
French researchers published data recently that links BPA with the functioning ability of the intestines, as this is the first organ to come in contact with the chemical after it is ingested from food and beverage containers. The study was conducted on animals, using a level that was 10 times below a level currently thought to be safe for humans. The mucosal lining of the intestinal wall failed, causing a condition called “leaky gut syndrome.” Damage to the lining can cause failure of the blockage of toxins and bacteria, which can then enter the body and cause damage to tissues and organs.
3. Infertility and Reproductive Issues
Another animal study found that chronic exposure to even low-doses of BPA can impair the growth and function of female antral follicles, the egg cell which is involved in ovulation. Because the chemical structure of BPA is similar to estrogen, it binds with receptors in the cells, causing a decrease in other important female hormones, such as progesterone.
4. Erectile Dysfunction
Another recent study focused on the hormonal effect on men. The journal Human Reproduction published research on over 200 Chinese men who were exposed to BPA in their workplace. Those men were four times more likely to have erectile dysfunction and seven times more likely to have ejaculation difficulties. The level of chemical exposure in the study was more than 50 times a level that the average American would be exposed to, but the study points out the effect that a hormonal compound can have on the male reproductive system in high doses.
5. Diabetes and Obesity
BPA is also linked to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, two conditions caused by a decrease in the body’s ability to effectively use insulin. BPA causes an increase in insulin output from the beta cells of the pancreas. High levels of circulating insulin causes a reduction in the body’s ability to break down fat, which leads to a greater risk of obesity.
6. Behavioral Changes in Children
A study from the University of Chapel Hill highlighted the dangers of children exposed to BPA from baby bottles and baby food containers. Toddler girls exposed to BPA were considered more aggressive and hyperactive than those with less exposure. Other research in children has shown that BPA is present in the umbilical cords of newborns, suggesting that the mother’s exposure can affect her offspring.
The Future of BPA
The US. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the data on BPA and is expected to release an assessment in the coming months. Until then, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is recommending that consumers reduce their current exposure levels by decreasing the use of certain plastic containers that use BPA and opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel instead.
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