Is There Poison in Our Food? Concerns About BPA

For years, researchers have implicated Bisphenol A (BPA) as a cause of cancer, obesity, diabetes and more. What’s the story behind this chemical?


| February/March 2012


The synthetic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) — often found in plastic containers and the linings of metal cans — is a potent, estrogen-mimicking compound that can leach from containers into food and water. In this interview, published by Yale Environment 360, an online magazine from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, BPA researcher Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri’s Endocrine Disruptor Group harshly criticizes U.S. corporations and government regulators for covering up or ignoring what he believes are serious health risks of BPA. — MOTHER  

Yale Environment 360: Everyone’s heard of BPA, but I really don’t think people know what it is. What is it? 

Frederick vom Saal: Bisphenol A is derived from petroleum. You take benzene, this sort of basic building block that corporations like Exxon produce, and they sell this to corporations like Dow Chemical. And they’re the ones that turn this, through a manmade chemical reaction, into this chemical called Bisphenol A. And this is an extremely reactive chemical that has the shape that any biochemist will look at and say, “This chemical will act as an estrogen-mimicking hormonal chemical.”

Yale Environment 360: This chemical was originally investigated by... 

vom Saal: Charles Edward Dodds. He was a British chemist, one of the leading chemists of the 1930s and 40s, and he won the Nobel Prize for synthesizing a chemical — people would love to dig him up and take the prize away from him — called DES, diethylstilbesterol, which was given to millions of women and has destroyed the lives of many of them. They were looking for synthetic, orally-active estrogens. Bisphenol A is highly absorbed, unlike the natural hormones that are degraded almost immediately in the stomach. And DES is highly absorbed. DES is, both structurally and functionally, very similar to BPA. There are lots of other, much more sophisticated, 21st century molecular assays that show BPA is actually as potent, and in some cases more potent, than DES.

Yale Environment 360: And why can’t we use BPA, for example, as a birth control hormone? 

ANDREA MILLER
2/26/2012 6:11:12 PM

Just found this Scientific American article, which also cites vom Saal, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=plastic-not-fantastic-with-bisphenol-a. Says polycarb products have the #7 on the bottom which I wasn't aware of and wasn't sure if it was mentioned previously. Thought it was good info for anyone else that is concerned. Thanks again!!


ANDREA MILLER
2/26/2012 5:59:25 PM

I was just curious if anyone knows of BPA concerns related to gardening equipment. Should I be concerned about using plastic planters, etc? I do believe BPA is harmful and stopped using plastic (everything) as soon as the "BPA free" baby bottles became available. We are hoping to move before summer so I'm doing most of my planting in pots for now so I can take them with me when we move. I've always used clay, glass, or stone pots simply due to my negative opinion of plastic (involving BPA and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) however, this year I am in need of A LOT of pots and plastic ones are much cheaper than the alternatives. Of course, I don't want to poison my organically grown produce by using plastic pots! I greatly appreciate any helpful info on the topic. Thanks for the article!


Robert Browning
2/19/2012 1:22:27 AM

The moderator didn't like my previous post. OK I'll restate. If BPA is in effect a synthetic estrogen and allowing children to ingest it daily from just after birth, wouldn't it have an effect on sexual development. Therefore, if someone published a paper correlating the abnormal sexual development of children to BPA, you could get the public groundswell needed To get the type of media exposure needed to effectively eliminate BPA, you would need a headline something like "CAN PLASTIC MAKE YOU A HOMOSEXUAL?" The chemical companies, fearful of lawsuits, would eliminate BPA within weeks, not the decade that the author claims would be needed. You cannot fight multinationals on their turf and expect to win.






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