The debate over the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA), a widely used chemical in plastic containers, will likely continue for some time but the evidence of its effects continues to pile up.
The latest study comes from researchers writing in the journal Endocrinology who say they have found exposure to low doses of BPA during pregnancy had trans-generational effects on mice.
In other words, a female mouse exposed to BPA during gestation had offspring that displayed different social behaviors, previously associated with BPA exposure. The research found the offspring and succeeding generations of offspring all showed the effects of BPA, including anxiety, aggression and cognitive impairments.
Effects passed on to other generations
"We have demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that BPA has trans-generational actions on social behavior and neural expression," said Emilie Rissman, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Since exposure to BPA changes social interactions in mice at a dose within the reported human levels, it is possible that this compound has trans-generational actions on human behavior."
That means that if BPA were suddenly banned and all products with BPA in them were withdrawn, and all landfills immediately cleaned up, it is possible, if the mice data generalize to humans, that the effects of BPA would appear in the human population for many generations. At least, that's what this study suggests.
BPA is a manmade chemical present in a variety of products including food containers, receipt paper and dental sealants and is now widely detected in human urine and blood. Public health concerns have been fueled by findings that BPA exposure can influence brain development.
Food industry appears split
Though some manufacturers and retailers have moved away from using BPA in recent years, the food industry as a whole insists it is safe and fights for it to remain legal. Campbell's Soup announced in March that it was phasing out the use of BPA in the plastic liners of its soup cans.
Recent studies point to BPA's ability to interfere with the body's hormone system, potentially leading to a variety of health problems, including damage to the reproductive system and the brain, particularly in children. Eleven states have banned the chemical's use in certain products, typically baby bottles and other children's goods; Canada, China and the European Union have similar restrictions.
An industry group, theÂ American Chemistry Council, saysÂ BPA has been used safely for decades and there is no evidence that it causes harm as it is currently used. A key component of many plastic products, BPA is found in everything from the lining of food cans to the paper used in store receipts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is studying the issue but as of now holds the view that BPA exposure, in small amounts, is not harmful to humans.