Many plastic products now tout that they are “BPA-free,” meaning that they are no longer comprised of the endocrine-disrupting industrial chemical that has been implicated in brain, behavior, and prostate-gland problems in fetuses, infants, and children. Going BPA-free has been a mandate from many consumers for years now, and while it’s good to see alternatives to BPA plastics available, it turns out that the alternatives may be just as bad — or worse — than the BPA itself.
The chemical, Bisphenol-A (BPA), was often used to harden plastics. Of course, plastics still need to be hardened in order to perform their function as caps, water bottles, cups, or whatever else we need, so many manufacturers started using Bisphenol-S (BPS) to replace the BPA. Recently, a UCLA study analyzed the impact of BPS and other alternatives on embryonic zebrafish and the results were “frightening and important,” Nancy Wayne, the senior author of the study and a reproductive endocrinologist, said. “Consider it the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine.”
Wayne and her colleagues exposed zebrafish to low levels of both BPA and BPS, according to CNN, and then examined the effect that the chemicals had on genes as well as the brain cells that are in charge of reproduction. Zebrafish are commonly used by scientists to see the impact of plastic additives because their embryos are transparent and let scientists “see and monitor cell growth.” The research showed that low levels of BPS has a similar impact as BPA, Wayne said. Embryonic development is accelerated by either chemical and BPA also caused premature birth. In addition, BPA and BPS were both found to affect the thyroid system.
“Because of thyroid hormone’s important influence on brain development during gestation,” said Wayne, “our work holds important implications for general embryonic and fetal development, including in humans.”
This and other research concluded over the last several years reveals that the replacements for BPA are frequently as bad, if not worse, than the BPA it is replacing. Sharima Rasanayagam, director of science for the Breast Cancer Fund, which tracks environmental causes of breast cancer, said that it’s like “jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”
While the FDA banned the use of BPA in 2012 in all baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formulas, it is still available for use water bottles, food storage containers, plastic tableware and many other items.
So, what can you do? Well, you can go plastic-free and eliminate the use of all plastics from your home — or reduce them only to items unavailable in any other way. Use a glass mason jar or glass water bottle (they make them padded with silicon now) to transport drinks — including coffee. Use glass baby bottles or breastfeed an infant. Get regular dishes for the dinner table and wash them. Use a glassware for drinking and, for kids, use jelly jars. They are made of thicker glass and bounce off most surfaces when dropped (except for tile and concrete). Also, don’t buy canned foods, since many of them are lined with BPA. Try and make meals ahead and can them yourself in glass mason jars.
Even if you avoid plastic bottles and canned foods, watch out of things like ATM receipts and tickets, which can contain BPA. The less exposure you have to BPA and BPS you will lessen the chance of having an endocrine-disrupting problem for you and your children.