Study shows dangers of BPA chemical used in plastic packaging
Bisphenol A is used to line drinks cans and in tests affected the way genes work in the brains of laboratory rats
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 27 May 2013
Further evidence has emerged showing that a chemical used widely in plastic packaging and the lining of drinks cans may be harmful to health.
The latest study has shown that bisphenol A (BPA) can affect the way genes work in the brains of laboratory rats, although other scientists have questioned the relevance of the findings to humans.
Researchers found that feeding BPA to pregnant rats was associated with lasting alterations to the “epigenetic” structure of genes in the brain tissue of their offspring, causing possible changes to certain aspects of sex-specific behaviour, such as chasing, sniffing and aggression.
Previous studies on laboratory animals have also pointed to a possible link between BPA and ill health but this research was criticised by other experts for using very high doses of the chemical, which would not be relevant to levels of human exposure, and to injecting the substance rather than feeding it through the diet, which is how BPA enters the human body.
The latest study by Frances Champagne of Columbia University in New York, published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, used what the scientists said were “environmentally relevant” doses of BPA, which were fed to the rats through their diet.
The researchers concluded: “This study provides evidence that low-dose maternal BPA exposure induces long-lasting disruption to epigenetic pathways in the brain of offspring….Importantly, our findings indicate that these BPA-induced changes occur in a sex-specific, brain region-specific and dose-dependent manner.”
Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council's Centre for Reproductive Health in Edinburgh said that although the study is well conducted there are still problems that make it difficult to extrapolate the findings to human health.
“Whilst these findings raise the possibility that comparable effects of bisphenol A could occur in humans, several factors suggest this is unlikely. First, the lowest dose used is still 10-20 times higher than normal human bisphenol A exposure,” Professor Sharpe said.
Another problem is that there were large variations in the results beween individual animals, making reproducible results questionable. A third issue was the suggestion that BPA works by interfering with the female hormone oestrogen, as oestrogen levels are much higher in pregnant women than in pregnant mice, Professor Sharpe said.
“If the effects described work through an oestrogen mechanism, they are unlikely to be human relevant because pregnancy levels of oestrogens in humans are far higher than in mice and would swamp any weak oestrogenic effects of bisphenol A,” he said.
BPA, which can interfere with the female sex hormone, is found in small quantities in most people but the levels of exposure are thought by most experts to be too low to result in biological effects. However, some researchers, particularly in the US, have disagreed with this assertion.
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...