BPA and other endocrine disruptors
Bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in the environment and many products, such as food can liners, plastic products, epoxies, coolants, lubricants, and thermal papers (like many receipt papers).
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been implicated in a range of health issues from affecting fertility, complicating menopause, cancer, neurological disorders, asthma, heart disease, brain tumors, and obesity.
Recent findings that have connected BPAs to fertility and sexual development issues have prompted many countries to ban or restrict the use of BPAs in baby bottles and other products. The Endocrine Society has issued a scientific statement highlighting the concerns that many scientists have about the link between endocrine disruptors and human health.
Our endocrine system circulates hormones in the blood to affect cells in various organs (see right) that regulate various functions such as sleep, behavior (mood), metabolism, and more.
Unfortunately these chemicals (BPA isn't the only one) are still being widely used in many commercial and industrial ways. The Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) stance on BPA is that it is safe. While science and many manufacturers agree that BPA is not safe for human consumption in low doses as the FDA claims, due to the fact that it bioaccumulates (relatively shortly according to this research), and is found in 93% of peoples urine over the age of 6.
The use and distribution of BPA's and other endocrine disruptors is so ubiquitous in our world today, that we are constantly coming into contact with levels of BPA that are deemed safe, but there safety is tested in a vacuum, at those low levels, which doesn't account for bioaccumulation, repeated and extended exposure, as well as the synergistic effect of BPA with the plethora of other chemicals we are inundated with daily.
The sustainability of producing life harming chemicals on any level should be questioned and examined for moving towards a more sustainable future. While these chemicals are certainly useful in numerous applications, there unintended (and poorly tested or thought out) side affects are coalescing in an unjust way into an unwitting society. That is, people (or the FDA) are not able to keep up with the onslaught of chemicals introduced each year, and we should look very hard at what a more sustainable plan moving forward would look like. One that respects the environmental, social, and economic factors, not just one of those.
(CC Image courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr)