BPA-free but still dangerous?


WORRIES over bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly found in plastics, have led to a surge in BPA-free products. But now, a new study suggests that the chemicals replacing BPA may also be cause for concern.
The study found that, among U.S. children, exposure to two common chemicals used in place of BPA — called bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF) — is linked with an increased risk of obesity. Both BPS and BPF are similar in structure to BPA and can be found in some types of plastic, canned goods and other products.
The study, published today (July 25) in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, adds to a growing body of evidence linking bisphenol chemicals with obesity and weight gain. In 2012, the same group of researchers found a link between BPA and childhood obesity.
Use of BPS and BPF “is growing because manufacturers are replacing BPA with these chemicals,” study lead author Melanie Jacobson, of the New York University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Although diet and exercise are still understood to [be] the main drivers of obesity, this research suggests that common chemical exposures may also play a role.”
However, the new study found only an association and can’t prove that BPS and BPF cause obesity. It may be that children who are already obese tend to have higher levels of exposure to these chemicals, the authors said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers BPA safe at the low levels found in foods, although the agency continues to review research on the topic, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Still, given the overall evidence linking bisphenol chemicals with obesity and the growing use of BPA-replacement chemicals, researchers should continue to monitor the potential health effects of these chemicals, the authors said.
BPA is similar in structure to the hormone estrogen, and so it could interfere with the actions of hormones in the body. The chemical can leach into food and beverage products from packaging materials. Previous studies have linked BPA exposure to many health problems; in addition to obesity, BPA exposure has been tied to early puberty, miscarriage, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
However, relatively few studies have examined the potential health effects tied to other bisphenol chemicals, even though these replacement chemicals could have similar effects, the authors said.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from more than 1,800 U.S. children and teens ages 6 to 19 years old who participated in a national health survey from 2013 to 2016.