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BPA-Free Plastic May Be Just As Dangerous To Health As Regular Plastic: Study

Sep 14, 2018 08:39 PM EDT
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BPA-free plastic has been hailed as a safer and less harmful alternative, especially in consumer products geared toward young children.

Unfortunately, recent data hints that these substitutes may be just as harmful as the BPA chemical that became so unpopular.

In a new study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers reveal that BPA alternatives have the same harmful reproductive effects on mice as BPA does.

BPA And Its Effects

First, what is BPA? Bisphenol A is a chemical widely used to create plastic. When consumer products break down over time, it casts out BPA and exposes people to it.

According to Gizmodo, exposure to the chemical has been shown to lead to subtle yet harmful consequences on the health. It's reportedly believed to have negative effects on the endocrine system. BPA has also been suggested as a potential cause of genital deformities in men, early puberty in women, and developmental problems in children.

Déjà Vu On The Plastics

The discovery of these effects came unexpectedly for scientists about 20 years ago as they realized female mice kept in BPA cages and drinking from BPA plastic bottles produced unhealthier eggs than usual.

Now, the same team identified reproductive problems in some of the male and female mice that they were using for another project. While the cages and bottles this time around were polysulfone instead of polycarbonate, there was a whitish residue in some cages, which suggests chemicals have been leaching again.

"This paper reports a strange déjà vu experience in our laboratory," Patricia Hunt, senior author from Washington State University, says.

The team noted problems in egg and sperm production in the laboratory mice exposed to the damaged cages.

Upon further testing of replacement bisphenols including common replacement called BPS, Hunt and the other researchers confirmed that alternatives cause very similar chromosomal abnormalities that were seen in BPA testing years ago.

Effects Persist Over Generations

One of the most alarming findings of the recent study is that the problems caused by these chemicals can actually be inherited. When BPS-exposed male mice reproduced with healthy females, their offspring were found with reproductive issues that exceeded normal levels.

Third- and fourth-generation offspring no longer had the effects but, of course, had the second-generation mice been exposed to the chemicals as well, it might be more difficult to wean out the problems.

Recommendations On The Use Of Plastic

Plastics remain very common in day-to-day life, as they're not only harmful for the environment but also directly to human health.

Hunt recommends discontinuing use of any plastic product that show damage. It is, she says, often perceived as a durable material.

"But if you see any signs of damage, you should just get rid of it. I also recommend that people never put plastics into the dishwasher or microwave because heat is just an invitation for these chemicals to migrate out," Hunt tells Gizmodo.

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