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Bisphenol A and You!

By Terry Connors

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you - just one word.

Ben: Yes sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Ben: Yes I am.

Mr. McGuire: 'Plastics.'

-- The Graduate

Yes, plastics. The miracle of modern science. Without plastics... why, there are a whole bunch of things we wouldn't have. And you want things, don't you? Of course you do. You can't do without things.

A Bisphenol A molecule

According to a study by the University of Cincinnati, Bisphenol A - a chemical that mimics estrogen in the human body - affects developing brains at much lower concentrations than previously thought. The research team, led by Dr. Scott Belcher, PhD, showed that the maximum effect of Bisphenol A occurs at 0.23 parts per trillion.

I hear you groan: "Please, don't lecture us about something else that can kill us. Every day, its something new - how are we supposed to remember what to avoid?"

Rest assured, dear reader, there is nothing you can do to avoid Bisphenol A... at least, not at the concentrations necessary to do harm.

Bisphenol A is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastic (used in many food containers - including baby bottles). It is also used to make an epoxy-resin coating that lines the inside of most of our canned food. It is also used in electrical wiring, and has a myriad of other uses.

Lets pause here for a moment to clarify something. Just because something is made from something else, does not mean that there is any of the original material present in the finished good. If the final product is much more chemically stable than the original material, there is very little chance that the original material will be present at any detectable level.

However, that is not the case with polycarbonate and epoxy resins made from Bisphenol A. These products have been shown to be somewhat unstable, which can lead to a breakdown into Bisphenol A, which can lead to subsequent human exposure.

Previous research (by a pro-Bisphenol A organization, no less) has shown that the typical daily exposure to Bisphenol A for the average person measures about 20-30 nanograms per kilogram of body weight. Thats about 20-30 parts per trillion, in other words -- 100 times higher than the amount necessary to damage a developing brain.

"So, what does it do? How does it kill me? How can I avoid this horrible fate?"

First, it won't kill you. Although there are many other reports from over the years that have linked Bisphenol A to breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer, you have to ingest much more Bisphenol A to get these effects. As much as several parts per million, in fact.

However, Bisphenol A has its greatest impact at the low dose of 0.23 parts per trillion on developing brains. It affects the brains by "appearing" to be estrogen in the body. This can block normal estrogen functionality, which research has shown to be crucial at certain developmental stages in the human fetus. It is unclear what this inhibited estrogen action will have on the person in later life.

As a former chemist who used to work with inks and coatings, I know that Bisphenol A is very easy to formulate with. It has been used for decades, and there are a large number of resources on Bisphenol A to assist a bench chemist formulate. I also know that there are many other materials that can be used that are much safer, and no more expensive than Bis-A.

I know its hard to keep straight what is really dangerous and what isn't. A huge number of people have been sucked in by the Aspartame hoax, for example, and all of them have the best intentions. However, Bisphenol A is a known carcinogen, a known sensitiser, and now is a possbile teratagen. We also know that it unecessary to use Bisphenol A since there are other, safer, materials that can replace it. So why don't we?

I'm not really sure, but I bet it has something to do with money.

About The Author
Terry Connors is a Gen-X family guy with 2 step-kids and a loving wife. He frequently blogs about current events, especially if there is a scientific angle to the news items.


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