The vast majority of teenagers in a recent study had traces of Bisphenol A (BPA) inside of their bodies, according to the University of Exeter. Researchers tested 94 17 to 19-year-olds and found BPA in 86 percent of them. The researchers are calling for better packaging labels to allow people to pick BPA-free products.

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The University of Exeter described BPA as an endocrine-disrupting industrial chemical, which has been in use since the 1960s to create some kinds of plastic. Prior research from the Exeter team discovered BPA can cause “changes to the expression of oestrogen-responsive genes, and the regulation of hormones.” And this recent study, published online earlier this month in BMJ Open, reveals a large number of the teens tested had measurable levels of BPA in their urine: an average of 1.9 nanograms per milliliter.

Related: New study shows BPA-free plastics may not be safer

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The teens were tested before and after they took part in the trial – a week-long effort adhering to guidelines to try and cut BPA exposure in their diets. They worked to avoid BPA-containing plastic packaging, utilize glass or stainless steel containers for drinks and food, and microwave food in glass or ceramic containers. The study found overall, these efforts seemed to do little to help: most teens didn’t see a decrease in exposure. Only some of the teenagers with the highest BPA levels saw some reduction. The industrial chemical seems to be so ubiquitous even working to lower exposure doesn’t have a measurable impact overall, according to the university.

University of Exeter associate professor of molecular genetics Lorna Harries said in a statement, “Our study shows that we currently do not have much of a choice about being exposed to BPA. We believe that much better labeling of products containing BPA is needed so people can make an informed choice.”

+ University of Exeter

+ BMJ Open

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