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Study: Early BPA Exposure Increases Risk of Prostate Cancer

Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to harden plastics, has been used since the 1960s to make a number of consumer goods such as bottles and cans. In the past several years, potential health risks associated with the chemical have come to the fore.

“There is a lot of evidence associating daily exposure to a slew of events in humans from behavioral issues in children to metabolism to malformations in organs when they develop,” said Maricel Maffini, a senior scientist with the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) health team. “If the exposure occurs to a specific window of the susceptibility during developnent, the impact is greater.”

In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a report identifying possible hazards to fetuses, infants and young children, later requiring that BPA be removed from all baby bottles and infant formula.

Many scientists have been studying the effects of BPA exposure, including Gail Prins, professor of physiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2006, her lab found that exposed rats had a heightened sensitivity to developing hormone-driven cancers.

Her latest study – released today in the journal Endocrinology – found similar results in human tissues.

To mimic the fetal development of the prostate, Prins implanted mice with human prostate stem cells from healthy donors. For two weeks before the structure reached maturity, her team then fed the mice BPA at levels that pregnant women are typically exposed.

“When the prostate structure was mature, we initiated prostate carcinogenesis, and what we found was that transplants that had been exposed to BPA were much more susceptible to hormone-triggered cancer,” Prins said.

A third of the tissues had either pre-cancerous lesions or prostate cancer, compared to only 13 percent in the oil-fed control group. In another group where the stem cells were exposed to BPA before implantation and again as they produced the prostate tissue in the mice, the prevalence of pre-cancerous lesions or cancer rose to 45 percent.

“This was rather unequivocal proof that the stem cell is a direct target for BPA, at least in the prostate,” Prins said. She added that she might expect to see similar responses in other estrogen-targeted organs.

Prins was quick to point out that she doesn’t claim BPA is driving the cancer itself. “We don’t have absolute proof of that,” she said. “We believe that BPA is reprogramming the stem cells and leading to heightened susceptibility to cancer as the tissues age.”

NRDC’s Maffini explained that while the changes to organs by BPA may not be initially observed, “those effects in the normal development of an organ are manifested years later when, for instance, after puberty, when the normal hormones start kicking in, the organs do not respond in a normal way.”

Maffini also noted that because of the way hormones operate, very small amounts of BPA exposure can have an impact.

“Our concern about BPA is that it’s such a high-volume chemical that we just do not know where it is,” Prins said. “I would support regulations to make BPA in products more transparent so we know which products have BPA in it. I would like to get it out of my life and I can’t.”

The most common presence of BPA is in packaging such as water bottles and soup cans. But even people who avoid such packaging are still found to have BPA in their systems.

One study out of the University of Washington last year suggested that our food – rather than its packaging – could also be contaminated with BPA, possibly from manufacturing and processing.

Those researchers gave one group of families instructions for avoiding BPA exposure. The other group got a five-day catered diet of local, fresh, organic food that was not prepared, cooked or stored in plastic containers. Unexpectedly, the scientists found that the families on the catered diet had increased levels of BPA.

“In the absence of regulation to reduce phthalate and BPA concentrations in food production, it may be difficult to develop effective interventions that are feasible in the general population,” the study read.

In dealing with BPA exposure, Prins said she would like to see three things: more transparency about which products it’s in, government encouragement of more innovation and funding for alternative products, and more robust testing before products go out to market.

“We know that BPA is harmful and I would like to see it replaced, but I don’t want to see it replaced by other harmful chemicals,” Prins said.

© Food Safety News
  • Oginikwe

    There must be some kind of mistake here. The industries that use BPA and the FDA has repeatedly told us that BPA is safe. Never mind the studies, they don’t matter, really. What matters is profit.

    BPA Sales Are Booming: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/12/bpa-sales-increase

    Risk Of Miscarriage Possibly Raised By High Levels Of BPA (AP/Huff Po) 10/14/2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/14/risk-of-miscarriage-bpa_n_4095211.html?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=Green

    LePage dismisses BPA dangers; ‘worst case is some women may have little beards’ (Bangor Daily News) 2/22/2011: http://bangordailynews.com/2011/02/22/politics/gov-lepage-dismisses-dangers-of-bpa/

    BPA Linked to Brain Tumors for the First Time (Mother Jones) 6/27/2012: http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/06/bpa-linked-brain-tumor-first-time

    BPA in Your Food? The FDA’s Still Okay With That. (Mother Jones) 4/4/2012: http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/04/fda-bpa-cans-food-dow-bayer

    U.S. Scientists Find BPA in Canned Foods (EWG) 5/26/11:

    • Overburdened_Planet

      Here’s some more ammo for your post (or future posts).

      BPA in grocery store receipts should really grab people’s attention.

      It seems not to be as reported on, but we are receiving much higher levels of BPA through handling receipts than all other daily average use and exposure levels of plastic in bottles, storage containers and can liners combined.

      Tests Find Chemical-Laden Receipts at National Retailers
      Tuesday, July 27, 2010
      “Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts’ BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).

      Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald’s, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from some major chains, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.

      The Missouri scientists found that the total mass of BPA on a receipt is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food or a can of baby formula, or that which leaches from a BPA-based plastic baby bottle into its contents.”

      Think Twice Next Time About Touching a Receipt with Your Bare Hands — Your Unborn Child May Thank You for It
      July 30, 2012
      “One recent study, however, has ascertained that people, especially store employees who handle thermal receipts daily, may be absorbing almost 20 times more BPS through their skin than BPA when it was considered safe….BPS is no safer than BPA.

      …the toxic chemical was indeed transferred to dry fingers, ten times more so if they were wet or greasy. It also found indications that BPA can enter the skin to the point that it can’t be washed off, and that people handling thermal paper daily for hours could, depending on the circumstances, encroach upon the margins of tolerable daily intake….On the printed side of the paper, BPA is present almost as a pure chemical…BPA’s major route of exposure is diet, which means it’s in our food and water, and in the things in which we store our food and water, together comprising a rather staggering amount of our toxic everyday life.”

      October 7, 2009
      “When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out],” Warner observes. “The average cash register receipt that’s out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” By free, he explains, it’s not bound into a polymer, like the BPA in polycarbonates. It’s just the individual molecules loose and ready for uptake.”

      December, 2009
      “The debate revolves around just what is a safe level of the chemical to ingest and whether it should be in contact with food. Federal guidelines currently put the daily upper limit of safe exposure at 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight. But that level is based on experiments done in the 1980s rather than hundreds of more recent animal and laboratory studies indicating serious health risks could result from much lower doses of BPA.”

      July 11, 2012
      “Don’t trust the “safety” of BPA (and BPA free) plastic bottles

      The release of BPA is related to water temperature and it is released 55 times more rapidly in hot water. Did you know that bottles that were nine years old release the same amount of BPA as new bottles?

      Here’s the problem with the new BPA-free bottles: they may contain biodegradable plastic substitutes (BPS), or other similar toxic chemicals that have NOT been mentioned by the manufacturers. BPS appears to have similar hormone-mimicking characteristics, which are similar to BPA.

      There is also Bisphenol AF, BPK, Bisphenol C, Bisphenol DK F, G, M, S, PH, TMC, and Z waiting in line to be used. So swapping out BPS for another similar substance may not be the best policy.”

      • farmber

        …and what about the BPA exposure to the Supermarket, Big Box, etc cashiers who handle hundreds of receipts or more every work day??