COLUMBIA, Missouri - A study released Monday reveals human exposure to the controversial chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, is much higher than some previous estimates and likely comes from some sources that are still unknown.
The study, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal , was co-authored by scientists at the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences, who are renewing their call for government regulation of the chemical found in many everyday products.
The study claims there are similarities in how BPA is metabolized in women, female monkeys, and female mice.
“This provides convincing evidence that BPA is dangerous to our health at current levels of human exposure,” said Frederick vom Saal, a professor at the University of Missouri and long-time critic of the hormone-mimicking chemical.
When contacted by NBC Action News, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council reiterated the organization’s position that BPA does not pose harm to humans.
“Consistent with previously published studies, including comprehensive studies by FDA researchers, this new study confirms that BPA is efficiently metabolized and rapidly eliminated from the body after oral exposure,” the ACC’s Steven Hentges, Ph.D., said in a written statement. “Overall, it continues to support the conclusions of government bodies around the world that BPA does not pose a risk at the very low levels to which people might be exposed.”
BPA can be found in a wide variety of consumer products, including hard plastic items such as baby bottles, food storage containers, the epoxy lining of canned foods, and dental sealants.
Despite decades of research, questions about BPA have lingered. The chemical has been under the microscope for possible links to diabetes, cancer, sexual dysfunction, obesity and heart disease, along with brain and development problems in babies and young children.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration reversed its position on the safety of BPA , saying it now has concerns about potential health risks. The FDA, which had long maintained that BPA is safe, is currently conducting further research.
The US Department of Health and Human Services also addresses the issue and offers tips on how parents can limit their kids’ exposure to BPA.
Back in July, vom Saal and University of Missouri colleague Julia Taylor partnered with the Environmental Working Group for a study that found high amounts of BPA in cash register receipts.
The receipts were collected from across the country and then tested for BPA in the University of Missouri lab . Vom Saal said surface amounts of the chemical found on the papers they analyzed were “astronomical.”
He believes it is particularly worrisome because the way BPA is used on receipts can rub off the receipts onto a person’s hand. It is unknown how easily BPA can be absorbed through the skin and into the body’s circulation.
“It’s inconceivable that cashiers are not being exposed at high levels to this chemical,” vom Saal said.
Consumers are unable to tell if thermal paper used for receipts contains the chemical or not. Vom Saal recommends throwing away receipts if they are not needed or storing them in a plastic bag instead of pockets, wallets and purses. He suggests washing your hands after touching a receipt before preparing or eating food. Finally, he recommends employees in the retail industry wear protective gloves.
Just like with baby bottles, vom Saal hopes companies will seize a marketing opportunity and begin advertising their paper as “BPA free.” He noted that one of the nation’s largest producers of receipt paper, Appleton Papers, already makes the product without BPA.
Vom Saal is hopeful that producers of BPA will eventually be required to list all the products that contain the chemical.
“We are clearly being exposed to this through many different sources that we’re totally unaware of,” he said.
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