BPA Substitute May Be Toxic to the Human Brain

BPA-free labels may indicate the presence of BPS. Ask the manufacturer if you're unsure

BPA-free labels may indicate the presence of BPS. Ask the manufacturer if you’re unsure

Bisphenol-A (BPA) gained notoriety in the 1990s as scientists studies began to draw lines between its use in many types of consumer plastics and hormone disruption, which can lead to problems with brain and nervous system development, obesity, and cancer. Today, manufacturers often turn to bisphenol-S (BPS) as a substitute that’s intended to be less toxic. However, researchers at the University of Calgary have found that BPS may also be toxic to the human brain.

In a study published in January in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Calgary research scientist Dr. Deborah Kurrasch and her team found evidence that BPS “caused alterations in brain development leading to hyperactivity in zebrafish.”

“I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect,” said Kurrasch in a press statement.

Kurrasch and her team exposed zebrafish embryos to the low levels of BPS found in Alberta’s Bow and Oldman Rivers.

“In the second trimester, brain cells become the specialized neurons that make up our brain. What we show is that the zebrafish exposed to BPA or BPS were getting twice as many neurons born too soon and about half as many neurons born later, so that will lead to problems in how the neurons connect and form circuits,” said Kurrasch.

Although Kurrasch and her team say that more research is needed to prove the link between BPA and BPS exposure and brain damage in humans, they advise pregnant women to limit exposure to BPA and BPS. These bisphenols can be found in #7 plastics, coatings on receipt paper, and food-can and beverage bottle linings, among other places. If an item says “BPA-free,” the researchers recommend contacting the manufacturer to ask if the item contains BPS.
Meanwhile, Green America is monitoring legislative developments to see if a bill worth supporting—one that offers meaningful protections against BPS and other toxic chemicals in consumer products—is introduced in 2015.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act, introduced in 2014 by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), failed to provide the measures needed to safeguard human and environmental. Fran Teplitz, Green America’s co-executive and policy director, says that while the weak and outdated 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) desperately needs to be replaced, its replacement must be effective.

“Our eyes are on the Senate to see what progress may be possible this year to protect people and the planet from toxic chemicals,” she says. “We hope this is the year we see strong legislation that will protect our most vulnerable communities, allow states to pass their own strong laws on toxic chemicals, empower the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate chemicals as needed, as well as promote the further development of green chemistry. With troubling new research findings, like those on BPS, it is clear that toxic chemical reform must be a national priority.”

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