BPA-Free Water Bottles

Bisphenol substitutes used in BPA-free bottles, cups, cages and other items may not be safe for us after all as new study finds they could be causing problems in the production of both eggs and sperm.

Twenty years ago, researchers discovered that bisphenol A or BPA leached out of plastic cages used to house female mice in the lab, caused a sudden increase in chromosomally abnormal eggs in the animals. Now, the same team is claiming that the array of alternative bisphenols now used to replace BPA appear to come with similar problems – in the new study published in the journal Current Biology.

“This paper reports a strange déjà vu experience in our laboratory,” says Patricia Hunt, a professor in WSU’s School of Molecular Biosciences and lead author of a study.

In the study, Hunt’s team found that mice that were exposed to several replacement bisphenols, including a common replacement known as bisphenol S, or BPS appear to show remarkably similar genetic abnormalities to those seen earlier in BPA study. They way the germ cells in their testes and ovaries copy and splice DNA while producing eggs and sperm was anomalous.

The team also found that the mice (both sexes) had problems getting their DNA recombined correctly, leading to a decrease in production of viable sperm and an increase in abnormal eggs.  Similar results were seen to those exposed to replacements BPF, BPAF, and diphenyl sulfone.

The problems in the male germline could last for at least three generations after the initial exposure, even if it were possible to eliminate bisphenol contaminants completely.  Other widely used and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including parabens, phthalates, and flame retardants, might also have similar adverse effects on fertility, according the team.

“The ability to rapidly enhance the properties of a chemical has tremendous potential for treating cancer, enhancing medical and structural materials, and controlling dangerous infectious agents,” the team writes. “Importantly, this technology has paved the way for ‘green chemistry,’ a healthier future achieved by engineering chemicals to ensure against hazardous effects. Currently, however, regulatory agencies charged with assessing chemical safety cannot keep pace with the introduction of new chemicals. Further, as replacement bisphenols illustrate, it is easier and more cost effective under current chemical regulations to replace a chemical of concern with structural analogs rather than determine the attributes that make it hazardous.”

Researchers advice BPA-free or not, plastic products that show physical signs of damage or aging should never be considered safe.