BPA is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics. It has been used since the 1950s and can be found in various products like water bottles, shatterproof windows and certain types of eyewear. It can even be found in epoxy resins that coat metal food cans, bottle tops and water supply pipes.
However, research shows that BPA can seep into foods and beverages, which is the primary way people are exposed to it. People can also be exposed when BPA gets into the air, dust or water.
BPA exposure has been linked to an increased risk of infertility, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It can also cause other health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome, asthma and reduced liver, thyroid, brain and immune functions.
Due to pressure and the mounting evidence of BPA causing serious health problems, manufacturing companies have decided to use alternatives that are supposedly safer, such as bisphenol F (BPF) and BPS. But since industrial use of BPS surged, scientists have found that the chemical is as harmful as BPA.
One study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the "National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey," examined more than 1,200 participants with available bisphenol and cardiovascular disease-related data. Researchers found a significant association between levels of BPS in a person's urine and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in older adults aged 50 and above.
Specifically, the researchers found a positive correlation between urinary BPS levels and coronary heart disease risk. (Related: BPA alternative, bisphenol S, just as dangerous – even tiny concentrations of BPS can impair brain development.)
"Although BPA, BPS and BPF share similar chemical properties, BPS and BPF are not safe alternatives for BPA," concluded the authors of the study.
Laura Vandenberg, an endocrinologist at the University of Massachusetts, noted that the findings of the study are pretty consistent with previous scientific evidence regarding the effects of BPS on a person. "It's not surprising that chemicals that are structurally similar to BPA are going to have similar effects on human populations," she said.
"We expected to find similar effects from BPS as we have with BPA, but not at the speed that it worked," said Glen Pyle, a biomedical sciences professor at Guelph and a co-author of the study. "This replacement chemical seems to be more potent."
Pyle added that people with coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity are in a more precarious position if they are exposed to BPS as it could increase the chance of a heart attack or make a heart attack more severe.
"If the heart is in a precarious position, when you add a stressor you can make it worse."
Pyle noted that previous research already looked at the effects of BPS on the human body if a person is exposed to it for several days. "But we are the first to show how fast BPS can work. This is an important finding because it means you don't need to have a buildup of the chemical over time to experience its harmful effects."
Despite sweeping concerns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still considers BPA "safe at the current levels occurring in foods." Because of this, BPA and BPS are still being used in the United States, with exceptions for the production of baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging.
A group of health professionals in the U.S. has already petitioned the FDA's regulations to revisit its stance on BPA and BPS. They want the FDA to be more in line with European Union recommendations, which slashed the recommended daily dose of BPA so much that it effectively ensured the chemical can never be used in any products that come into contact with food and drinks.
"The FDA really has ignored a lot of data on BPA," said Vandenberg. "I think it's time for that to change."
Watch this lecture by Dr. Pete Myers as he talks about the impact of plastic additives like bisphenol A and S on the health of future generations.