Humans are exposed to far more hormone-disrupting chemicals than previously thought, according to a new study.
Patricia Hunt, the researcher at Washington State University who first discovered that BPA, a dangerous toxin in plastics, can cause cancer and other diseases and disorders, has now developed a more accurate method of measuring it.
In a study published today, Dr Hunt reveals the new tool shows the ‘safe’ limit of BPA stipulated by the US Food and Drug Administration is flawed. In fact, it is 44 times higher than what Dr Hunt considers safe.
‘This study raises serious concerns about whether we have been careful enough about the safety of this chemical,’ Dr Hunt, a corresponding author on the paper said. ‘What it comes down to is that the conclusions federal agencies have come to about how to regulate BPA may have been based on inaccurate measurements.’ The amount of BPA the FDA considers acceptable varies based on the product. Broadly, it claims that the chemicals are ‘safe’ and that people are exposed to such low doses of them that they’re not considered toxic.
However, in 2012, it amended its regulations and banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Methodology used by the FDA to establish what is or isn’t ‘safe’ has been subject to scrutiny from a number of scientists. Dr Hunt has led that charge.
She discovered the way that the BPAs – sometimes referred to as ‘gender-bending chemicals – interfered with the production of sperm, eggs, and male and female chromosomes.
Dr Hunt has long acknowledged that measuring humans’ exposure to BPAs is difficult – but argues that that is all the more reason to air on the side of caution. So, in her latest work, she developed a new way to test just how much BPA people are exposed to and internalizing.
According to Dr Hunt and her colleagues, most studies attempting to measure the amount of BPA in human urine have done so by putting BPA metabolites – compounds generated as the chemicals pass through the body – into a snail-based enzyme solution that is supposed to turn the compounds back to BPA itself.
This is an indirect measure, according to the study, published in the journal, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
Instead, she and her team devised a way to assess the metabolites themselves directly. What they found was alarming. Not only was the disparity between the indirect measure and their ‘direct’ on as wide as 44-fold, the higher the level of BPA, the greater the gulf between their measure and the one used by the FDA was.
‘I hope this study will bring attention to the methodology used to measure BPA, and that other experts and labs will take a closer look at and assess independently what is happening,’ said the study’s first author, Roy Gerona.
What are the chemicals parabens, BPA and triclosan? (BOLD)
Parabens are hormone-disrupting chemicals, which are used as preservatives in skincare, cosmetics and hair products. They mimic oestrogen and may cause cancer, weight gain and reduced muscle mass.
What is BPA? (BOLD)
The so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is added to receipts to make their writing appear darker without using ink.
It reacts with oestrogen and thyroid-hormone receptors, and has been linked to infertility, autism, ADHD, obesity, type 2 diabetes, premature births and early onset of puberty.
Health fears prompted BPA to be replaced with its ‘healthier alternative’ Bisphenol S (BPS), however, evidence suggests BPS disrupts babies’ development in the womb.
Exposure to BPA, which is also found in the lining of canned foods, also causes the same inflammation and gut bacteria changes in mice that occur in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned BPA from baby bottles, while The European Commission prohibits the chemical from being added to receipts from 2020.
What is triclosan?
Triclosan is an artificial antibacterial and antifungal agent (biocide) that is designed to help kill and reduce the growth of bacteria within the body and on the surface of the skin – at least in principle. It was created in 1964 by a Swiss pharmaceutical company (Ciba-Geigy) and was mainly used during the 1970’s as a hospital scrub.
It is a chemical added to personal-care products to prevent bacterial contamination, has been linked to reduced heart health and an underactive thyroid.
It is added to antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes and cosmetics, as well as some clothing, furniture and toys. Triclosan also stops infections responding to antibiotics, which may contribute towards the resistance crisis. The chemical was banned in soaps in the US two years ago. No such ban exists in the UK. The FDA declared antibacterial soaps containing triclosan are no more effective than hot water and regular cleansers at killing bugs.
Many manufacturers have started removing this ingredient from their products. If you’re concerned about triclosan, look for products that don’t list triclosan in their ingredients.
How Triclosan affects your health (BOLD)
The antibacterial compound Triclosan has been linked to numerous human health problems. Exposures come mainly by absorption through the skin or through the lining of the mouth. These exposures have resulted in contact dermatitis, or skin irritation, and an increase in allergic reactions, especially in children.
Triclosan has also been detected in human milk samples and in urine at high concentrations that correlate with the use pattern of this compound. Recent studies have also found that Triclosan interferes with the body’s thyroid hormone metabolism and maybe a potential endocrine disruptor. Children exposed to antibacterial compounds at an early age also have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.
There are also concerns about Triclosan and its link with dioxin, which is highly carcinogenic and can cause health problems as severe as weakening of the immune system, decreased fertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and cancer. Recent work shows that Triclosan promotes liver cancer cell development in mice through pathways shared with humans.
While products with this antibacterial agent claim to promote good health, these claims are indeed misleading. Triclosan does not provide any additional health benefits to the consumer, but it does pose risks to human health, most of which are understudied