Bisphenol A and Phthalates
|print the page||email the page|
How dangerous are these chemicals to human health?
- What is Bisphenol A and How Does it Impact Human Health?
- What are Phthalates and How Do they Impact Human Health?
- Bisphenol A and Phthalates May Increase Risk for Certain Health Conditions
- Where Can You Find Bisphenol A and Phthalates
- How to Reduce Your Exposure to Bisphenol A and Phthalates
In May 2008, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA declared that Bisphenol A (BPA) was not a risk to human health and exposure from plastics in food containers and other plastics are "below those that may cause health effects," according to FDA testimony before a Senate committee.
In January 2010, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA revised its earlier statement about Bisphenol A (BPA) above and is now cautioning parents to keep plastics away from their babies, infants and children based on the results of recent studies which had used more “novel” approaches to detect the more subtle, but adverse effects of BPA on human health.
In October 2008, the Canadian Government declared Bisphenol A a ‘dangerous substance’ and started to work on legislation that will prohibit the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA). In addition to this, the Canadian government intend to take steps which limit the amount of bisphenol A that is released into their environment.
In 2006, the Danish Environment Protection Agency provided new guidelines for pregnant and lactating mother to help them reduce their exposure of Bisphenol A and phthalates, based on the results of many experiments showing how detrimental these chemicals are on the health of the unborn foetus and growing child, especially because the effect is from cumulative and continuous exposure.
While this is a positive approach it is simply the start, because it is not only BPA that can cause these effects, it is also a class of chemicals called phthalates, which are also known endocrine disruptors and which also have known detrimental effects on human health.
Bisphenol A is a chemical which has been developed and added to plastics for the past 60 years.
The chemicals that are used to make plastics are – Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates as well as a number of other chemicals. The BPA continuously leeches out of the plastic, at the same rate, over the lifetime of the plastic (whatever it is). This is a given.
Previously, the health agencies advised that BPA did not impact on human health because people were exposed at such low levels and this did not have an adverse effect on health as the body was able to excrete it without any harmful effects. This has since been shown to be not true where BPA is concerned. Even a small, minute exposure, if it is continuous and occurs over a long time is associated with adverse health effects. Continuous and higher exposure over a long period has even worse health outcomes.
Bisphenol A is known as an endocrine (hormone) system disruptor. This means that is associated with blocking the proper function of the hormones in the body, but particularly the sex hormones (eostrogen, testosterone). If the hormones are not functioning as they should be, this can cause a whole rage of health conditions.
BPA acts as a xenoestrogen, which means it behaves as if it has eostrogenic properties, all over the body. The BPA attaches to the eostrogen receptors in the body and it can turn on, turn off or change the signal that the receptor sends out to the body. The BPA can completely alter normal hormone levels by blocking them or causing them to be activated in excessively high or low levels. All of the bodily functions which are controlled by those hormones get affected by the abnormal hormone levels (too much, too little or none at al) and this is how endocrine disruptors can affect health.
Altering the normal effect of the hormones in the body may cause a number of health conditions, especially reproductive disorders and even neurological damage to the developing brain (of the foetus or child). Since the endocrine system controls basically every aspect of the body, from metabolism, to fertility, to development of sex organs, any changes to the hormone levels can have an adverse impact.
Interestingly, BPA was studied in the 1940’s as a possible replacement for eostrogen in women who were going through menopause, but was not used in favour of other synthetic eostrogens.
The issue is not exposure from one source, the issue is cumulative exposure from multiple sources, which means the body cannot excrete the Bisphenol A at all because people are simply bombarded with this chemical in just about everything they touch, use and eat.
Phthalates are a class of chemicals which are used as plasticisers, to soften plastics and make them more pliable. They are often used with PVC (a known carcinogen) to soften it and they are also found in cosmetics and personal care products, including lotions, creams, sun care, hair care and other types of personal care and personal hygiene products.
Phthalates are extremely common in our environment because they are used in so many products people use. There are numerous phthalates that have been developed for use in plastics.
Phthalates are also known as endocrine disruptors as they disrupt the fine balance of hormones in the body (which are normally released in very small amounts by the endocrine organs and tissues) and this can also impair reproduction and development of the foetus and are implicated in a number of health conditions.
As with Bisphenol A, phthalates were thought to be harmlessly excreted out of the human body quite quickly without any adverse effects, but this again, is thought to be not the case. Scientists now think that even a small amount of phthalates on a continuous basis over a long period is the issue to health. Studies so far have shown that blood levels of phthalates in people (especially children) are a lot higher than have been previously reported or expected, often greatly exceeding the upper daily limit that has been specified for humans and this is a huge concern. Research has shown that women between the ages of 20-40 have over 45 times more phthalates in their body than is either tolerable for good health or was previous hypothesised.
The issue is not exposure from one source, the issue is cumulative exposure from multiple sources, which means the body cannot excrete the phthalates at all because people are simply bombarded with this chemical in just about everything they touch, use and eat.
According to the US National Library of Medicine web site Tox Town, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as a substance "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the Eleventh Report on Carcinogens, published by the National Toxicology Program.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are currently studying several other phthalates and have stated that seven of these pose “minimal” concern for causing reproductive problems, but that one of those phthalates, di-n-butyl phthalate, may adversely affect human reproduction or development.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have also stated that high levels of exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate in people who have medical tubing or other plastic devices inserted, especially for feeding, breathing or medication in newborn infants may have an adverse effect on the male newborn babies' health. It seems likely that the same adverse effect occurs in adults who are exposed to the medical tubing inserted for feeding, breathing or medication.
In 2003, the European Union created a directive to ban all phthalates in cosmetics that are sold in Europe due to the overwhelming evidence about adverse health effects. There is no such ban in Australia, USA or UK.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has produced two web sites to help people understand exactly what they are putting on their body:
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: Not Too Pretty – Not Too Pretty web site has a great deal of valuable and useful information about the chemicals in your cosmetics and personal care products
- Skin Deep – The Skin Deep web site is a database of numerous cosmetics and other personal care products with ingredients listed and safety information about those chemicals
Countless studies show that Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates have a detrimental effect on human health and in particular, both have been shown to impact it in the following ways by increasing risk of the following conditions (listed alphabetically):
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Birth defects in the unborn child
- Cancers of the breast, ovaries and prostate – these cancers can occur many years later after the child has been exposed either in-utero or post-birth, in the formative years
- Earlier puberty in girls – this is now being attributed to possible BPA and phthalate exposure
- Feminisation of boys, by reduction of the space between the genitals and anus (a characteristic of girls)
- Fertility problems for both men and women
- Heart disease
- Higher blood cholesterol levels
- Insulin resistance and obesity
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Lowered acetylcholine levels (a neurotransmitter required for proper communication between the nerves and muscles for normal function)
- Lung damage
- Problems with learning, memory and mental development in children
- Prostate gland enlargement
- Reduced effectiveness of chemotherapy medications (this has recently been suggested as an issue that could be due to BPA)
- Reduced sperm count in adult men
- Testicular cancer
Both BPA and phthalates are everywhere and impact people in so many ways because of the exposure from multiple sources:
- Adhesive material used in dentistry (for filling, crowns, bridges etc)
- Automobile parts
- Baby care products
- Baby dummies
- Baby products
- Body care products
- Books, especially the front and back covers
- Breast pumps
- Carpet cleaners (especially if perfumed)
- CD & DVD covers and the actual discs
- Cleaning products
- Coffee and tea pots (that have plastic inside)
- Face care products
- Hair care products
- Home furnishings, especially the plastic lining on the back of some curtains
- Laundry products
- Lining of food cans/tins
- Lining of the underside of lids of bottles
- Magazines, especially the front and back covers
- Medical devices
- Milk containers (many have been covered with some plastic internally)
- Nail polish and nail polish remover
- Plastic bottles
- Plastic food containers
- Plastic storage containers
- Room atomisers/sprays
- Varnish (for wooden floors)
Both BPA and phthalates are everywhere and impact people in so many ways due to exposure from multiple sources and because of this it is difficult to reduce exposure from all sources, but it is possible to reduce the main sources:
- Avoid certain plastics – Avoid plastics with the numbers #3 and #7 – these almost definitely contain Bisphenol A, phthalates or PVC (a known carcinogen). Also avoid #6 and #8 as they most likely contain these chemicals too
- Avoid heating plastics – Do not heat any plastics in the microwave – use only ovenproof glass or ceramic. It should state it on the underside of the dish whether it is ovenproof or microwave proof today. If you are not sure, just use a different bowl
- Avoid putting liquids in plastic – Do not use plastics for drinking water / juice or any liquid hot or cold – use glass, ceramic or stainless steel
- Buy less plastic containers – Try to buy fewer foods in plastic containers for food storage. Try to buy only glass/ceramic/stainless steel containers to store your food
- Certain plastics may be okay – If you need to use any plastics, look for number #1, #2, #4 and #5. Out of all these, #5 is the best to use as no adverse effects have been determined for this type of plastic, but with the other numbers, there may or may not be possible adverse effects
- Don’t buy take-away foods in plastic containers – eat it at the restaurant, or if you want to take home the left-overs, wait until the food is completely cold and then ask your server to pack it. As soon as you get home, transfer the food into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with glass or ceramic (not plastic)
- Don’t use glad wrap (saran wrap) on left-over foods – Place any left-overs in a glass or ceramic bowl and use either the lid that comes with it, or if it does not, use a plain ceramic plate to cover it and store in the fridge
- Don't use PVC gloves - these gloves contain PVC (a known carcinogen) and probably phthalates too. Use gloves that state they are made from "natural rubber or latex" without powder (as long as you are not allergic to latex/rubber)
- Don’t use scratched or broken plastic containers – if you have any type of container, dish, storage containers, baby bottles, baby cups, teets or other plastics that are scratches, chipped or broken, you must throw them away, because these opening in the plastic make it easier for the BPA/phthalates to leech out
- Painting a baby’s room – if you are pregnant and you or your partner want to paint the baby’s room, make sure you do so a few months before the baby is due and only use non-toxic, natural paint. Find one which is the most closest to natural and that is water-based and even organic if you can. Do not do the painting yourself, get a professional (or someone else) to do the painting and air out the room for a few weeks to make sure there are no chemicals left in the room
- Plastic dummy/cups for babies – Do not give your baby a plastic dummy, cups or toys which could contain BPA or phthalates. Find toys, baby dummy and cups which are guaranteed to be BPA/phthalate free
- Use non-toxic, natural glue – there are a number of non-toxic, natural, water-based glues that are available, have no noxious smell and will not contain the chemicals BPA/phthalates (or very little)
- Use non-toxic paint, floor varnish – there are a number of non-toxic paints and floor varnishes that are natural and do not contain these chemicals (some contain no BPA/PVC, some contain no BPA/phthalates/PVC, while others may contain just a little)
- Use certified organics – cosmetics, face care, body care, hair care, baby care and personal hygiene products made with certified organic ingredients and foods do not BPA, phthalates or PVC and are also better for your health
- Barrett JR. Dramatic devices?: Medical procedures may expose infants to BPA. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Apr;117(4):A163
- Bouskine A, Nebout M, Brücker-Davis F, Benahmed M, Fenichel P. Low doses of bisphenol A promote human seminoma cell proliferation by activating PKA and PKG via a membrane G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jul;117(7):1053-8. Epub 2009 Feb 11
- Braun JM, Yolton K, Dietrich KN, Hornung R, Ye X, Calafat AM, Lanphear BP. Prenatal bisphenol A exposure and early childhood behavior. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Dec;117(12):1945-52. Epub 2009 Oct 6
- Buka I, Osornio-Vargas A, Walker R. Canada declares bisphenol A a 'dangerous substance': Questioning the safety of plastics. Paediatr Child Health. 2009 Jan;14(1):11-3
- Calafat AM, Weuve J, Ye X, Jia LT, Hu H, Ringer S, Huttner K, Hauser R. Exposure to bisphenol A and other phenols in neonatal intensive care unit premature infants. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Apr;117(4):639-44. Epub 2008 Dec 10
- Carwile JL, Luu HT, Bassett LS, Driscoll DA, Yuan C, Chang JY, Ye X, Calafat AM, Michels KB. Polycarbonate bottle use and urinary bisphenol A concentrations. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Sep;117(9):1368-72. Epub 2009 May 12
- Dang VH, Choi KC, Jeung EB. Estrogen receptors are involved in xenoestrogen induction of growth hormone in the rat pituitary gland. J Reprod Dev. 2009 Apr;55(2):206-13. Epub 2009 Jan 15
- Howdeshell KL, Furr J, Lambright CR, Rider CV, Wilson VS, Gray LE Jr. Cumulative effects of dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate on male rat reproductive tract development: altered fetal steroid hormones and genes. Toxicol Sci. 2007 Sep;99(1):190-202. Epub 2007 Mar 30
- Howdeshell KL, Wilson VS, Furr J, Lambright CR, Rider CV, Blystone CR, Hotchkiss AK, Gray LE Jr. A mixture of five phthalate esters inhibits fetal testicular testosterone production in the sprague-dawley rat in a cumulative, dose-additive manner. Toxicol Sci. 2008 Sep;105(1):153-65. Epub 2008 Apr 14
- Hugo ER, Brandebourg TD, Woo JG, Loftus J, Alexander JW, Ben-Jonathan N. Bisphenol A at environmentally relevant doses inhibits adiponectin release from human adipose tissue explants and adipocytes. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Dec;116(12):1642-7. Epub 2008 Aug 1
- Jaakkola JJ, Knight TL. The role of exposure to phthalates from polyvinyl chloride products in the development of asthma and allergies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jul;116(7):845-53
- Jenkins S, Raghuraman N, Eltoum I, Carpenter M, Russo J, Lamartiniere CA. Oral exposure to bisphenol a increases dimethylbenzanthracene-induced mammary cancer in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jun;117(6):910-5. Epub 2009 Jan 7
- Kabil A, Silva E, Kortenkamp A. Estrogens and genomic instability in human breast cancer cells--involvement of Src/Raf/Erk signaling in micronucleus formation by estrogenic chemicals. Carcinogenesis. 2008 Oct;29(10):1862-8. Epub 2008 Jun 9
- Keri RA, Ho SM, Hunt PA, Knudsen KE, Soto AM, Prins GS. An evaluation of evidence for the carcinogenic activity of bisphenol A. Reprod Toxicol. 2007 Aug-Sep;24(2):240-52. Epub 2007 Jun 28
- Kolarik B, Naydenov K, Larsson M, Bornehag CG, Sundell J. The association between phthalates in dust and allergic diseases among Bulgarian children. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jan;116(1):98-103
- Lang IA, Galloway TS, Scarlett A, Henley WE, Depledge M, Wallace RB, Melzer D. Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults. JAMA. 2008 Sep 17;300(11):1303-10. Epub 2008 Sep 16
- Le HH, Carlson EM, Chua JP, Belcher SM. Bisphenol A is released from polycarbonate drinking bottles and mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons. Toxicol Lett. 2008 Jan 30;176(2):149-56. Epub 2007 Nov 19
- Leranth C, Szigeti-Buck K, Maclusky NJ, Hajszan T. Bisphenol A prevents the synaptogenic response to testosterone in the brain of adult male rats. Endocrinology. 2008 Mar;149(3):988-94. Epub 2007 Nov 29
- Liu PS, Tseng FW, Liu JH. Comparative suppression of phthalate monoesters and phthalate diesters on calcium signalling coupled to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. J Toxicol Sci. 2009 Jun;34(3):255-63
- Meeker JD, Calafat AM, Hauser R. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate metabolites may alter thyroid hormone levels in men. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jul;115(7):1029-34
- Mill D. Women to Women: Endocrine disruptors — tipping the hormonal scales. 17 August 2009. Accessed 20 January 2010
- Miyawaki J, Sakayama K, Kato H, Yamamoto H, Masuno H. Perinatal and postnatal exposure to bisphenol a increases adipose tissue mass and serum cholesterol level in mice. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2007 Oct;14(5):245-52. Epub 2007 Oct 12
- Newbold RR, Jefferson WN, Padilla-Banks E. Prenatal exposure to bisphenol a at environmentally relevant doses adversely affects the murine female reproductive tract later in life. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jun;117(6):879-85. Epub 2009 Jan 15
- Prins GS, Tang WY, Belmonte J, Ho SM. Developmental exposure to bisphenol A increases prostate cancer susceptibility in adult rats: epigenetic mode of action is implicated. Fertil Steril. 2008 Feb;89(2 Suppl):e41
- Richter CA, Birnbaum LS, Farabollini F, Newbold RR, Rubin BS, Talsness CE, Vandenbergh JG, Walser-Kuntz DR, vom Saal FS. In vivo effects of bisphenol A in laboratory rodent studies. Reprod Toxicol. 2007 Aug-Sep;24(2):199-224. Epub 2007 Jun 26
- Roy JR, Chakraborty S, Chakraborty TR. Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans--a review. Med Sci Monit. 2009 Jun;15(6):RA137-45
- Rudel RA, Perovich LJ. Endocrine disrupting chemicals in indoor and outdoor air. Atmos Environ. 2009 Jan 1;43(1):170-181
- Sathyanarayana S, Karr CJ, Lozano P, Brown E, Calafat AM, Liu F, Swan SH. Baby care products: possible sources of infant phthalate exposure. Pediatrics. 2008 Feb;121(2):e260-8
- Satoh K, Nonaka R, Ohyama K, Nagai F, Ogata A, Iida M. Endocrine disruptive effects of chemicals eluted from nitrile-butadiene rubber gloves using reporter gene assay systems. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Mar;31(3):375-9
- Sharp D. Environmental toxins, a potential risk factor for diabetes among Canadian Aboriginals. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2009 Sep;68(4):316-26
- Somm E, Schwitzgebel VM, Toulotte A, Cederroth CR, Combescure C, Nef S, Aubert ML, Hüppi PS. Perinatal exposure to bisphenol a alters early adipogenesis in the rat. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Oct;117(10):1549-55. Epub 2009 Jun 29
- Spivey A. Prenatal preview: early bisphenol a exposure may spawn late-life reproductive problems. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jun;117(6):A256
- Stahlhut RW, Welshons WV, Swan SH. Bisphenol A data in NHANES suggest longer than expected half-life, substantial nonfood exposure, or both. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 May;117(5):784-9. Epub 2009 Jan 28
- Swan SH. Environmental phthalate exposure in relation to reproductive outcomes and other health endpoints in humans. Environ Res. 2008 Oct;108(2):177-84
- Varayoud J, Ramos JG, Bosquiazzo VL, Muñoz-de-Toro M, Luque EH. Developmental exposure to Bisphenol a impairs the uterine response to ovarian steroids in the adult. Endocrinology. 2008 Nov;149(11):5848-60. Epub 2008 Jul 24
- Yan H, Takamoto M, Sugane K. Exposure to Bisphenol A prenatally or in adulthood promotes T(H)2 cytokine production associated with reduction of CD4CD25 regulatory T cells. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):514-9
To learn more about how Bisphenol A and phthalates can affect you, try these reliable web sites:
- Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Good Chemistry to Pregnant and Nursing Mothers - 9 Good Habits (PDF document)
- Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Good Chemistry is Not Always Enough (PDF document)
- Environment Health News – Bisphenol A linked to diabetes, heart disease in humans
- Environmental Working Group (EWG). Bisphenol A: Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food: BPA and human diseases on the rise
- Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG's Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles: Safe Baby Bottle and Formula Guide
- Health Canada. Government of Canada Protects Families With Bisphenol A Regulations
- US Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - Bisphenol A (BPA)
- US Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - Update on BPA
- US Department of Health and Human Services - BPA Information for Parents
- US National Library of Medicine. Tox Town: Environmental Health Concerns