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Are BPA-Free Products Always Safe?

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a known endocrine disruptor that has been banned in many countries and the use of BPA material in water bottles and food containers has been greatly reduced. Meanwhile, the number of BPA-free products has been growing on the market to replace BPA-containing plastic products.


However, BPA-free products aren’t always safer and healthier options because some of these products simply use bisphenol S (BPS; 4,4′-sulfonyldiphenol) or bisphenol F (BPF; 4,4′-dihydroxydiphenylmethane) to replace BPA. BPS and BPF are structurally similar to BPA and they are endocrine disruptors too.


Where are BPA, BPF, and BPS found?

  • Plastic products like water bottles, baby bottles, food containers, food packaging, storage containers, medical devices, electronics, housewares, etc.

  • Personal care products like shampoo, body wash, hand sanitizers, lotions, and sunscreens (due to leakage from containers)

  • Thermal papers (e.g. store receipts) and currency bills

  • Canned foods and drinks (BPA is used to coat the inner surface of metallic cans)

  • Vegetables and seafood products (from contamination and bioaccumulation in animals)

  • Dental fillings and implants


Health impacts of BPA

BPA is a synthetic chemical that can mimic hormones like estrogens and bind to hormone receptors in our cells, creating estrogenic effects. BPA also creates oxidative stress and inflammation. These underlying mechanisms not only disrupt the normal function of our endocrine system but also lead to a series of systemic health issues.


So far research have shown that BPA can:

  • Disrupt blood glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity, which increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.

  • Impair lipid metabolism, which increases fat accumulation and promotes obesity.

  • Increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  • Affect thyroid health by interfering with the synthesis, secretion, and signaling of thyroid hormones.

  • Have an anti-androgenic effect and interferes with sperm production, affects sperm quality, and impairs male reproductive function.

  • Induce gynecomastia in males.

  • Increase risk of hormone-related conditions like uterine fibroid, endometriosis, PCOS, early onset puberty, and miscarriage.

  • Increase the risk of hormone-dependent cancer like breast cancer and prostate cancer.

  • Cause toxicity to the liver and kidneys.

  • Induce neuropsychiatric effects like aggressive behaviors and impaired memory and learning.


Health impacts of BPS and BPF

According to the research, BPS and BPF were found in 89.4% of US adults and 66.5% of US children. While among seven Asian countries, BPS was found in 81% of the population.


Although there hasn't been as much research on BPS and BPF as compared to BPA (since the rise in the use of BPS and BPF in recent years), current research has shown that they can cause similar health impacts as BPA.


Health impacts of BPS and BPF:

  • Obesity

  • Diabetes, gestational diabetes

  • Increased oxidative stress and inflammation

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease

  • Anti-androgenic effect - can reduce testosterone levels

  • Pose a similar estrogenic effect on breast cancer cells as BPA


It’s therefore a good practice to always check the materials of BPA-free products, see if they are also BPF and BPS-free, and reduce the use of plastic materials in general.







Reference

  1. Alharbi, Hend F., et al. "Exposure to Bisphenol A Substitutes, Bisphenol S and Bisphenol F, and Its Association with Developing Obesity and Diabetes Mellitus: A Narrative Review." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19.23 (2022): 15918.

  2. Cimmino, Ilaria, et al. "Potential mechanisms of bisphenol A (BPA) contributing to human disease." International journal of molecular sciences 21.16 (2020): 5761.

  3. Ma, Ya, et al. "The adverse health effects of bisphenol A and related toxicity mechanisms." Environmental research 176 (2019): 108575.

  4. Vom Saal, Frederick S., and Laura N. Vandenberg. "Update on the health effects of bisphenol A: overwhelming evidence of harm." Endocrinology 162.3 (2021).

  5. Wang, Ruihua, et al. "The bisphenol F and bisphenol S and cardiovascular disease: results from NHANES 2013–2016." Environmental Sciences Europe 34.1 (2022): 1-10.

  6. Eladak, Soria, et al. "A new chapter in the bisphenol A story: bisphenol S and bisphenol F are not safe alternatives to this compound." Fertility and sterility 103.1 (2015): 11-21.

  7. Stillwater, Barbara J., et al. "Bisphenols and risk of breast cancer: a narrative review of the impact of diet and bioactive food components." Frontiers in nutrition 7 (2020): 581388.

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