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BPA and Babies’ Developing Brains - New Research

New research about the effect of Bisephenol A (BPA) on humans finds a link between BPA and the developing central nervous systems of human embryos.  BPA, a chemical used in the lining of some food and drink packaging and non-food related products, is already linked, though not conclusively, to behavioural issues, endocrine and reproductive disorders, obesity, cancer and immune system disorders, and this new study from Duke University Medical Centre claims to have uncovered the process by which BPA effects developing brains of babies.  However, other scientists disagree, saying the science is flawed.

The researchers extracted rodent and human nerve cells, and treated them with exposure to BPA to learn how the chemical affects genes that are needed for the developing central nervous system.  They found that while both male and female neurons were affected by BPA, female neurons were more susceptible to the chemical's toxicity.  Following their findings, the researchers raise the question of whether BPA could contribute to sex-specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett syndrome, a severe autism spectrum disorder that is only found in girls.

In an interview with Sarah Dingle from ABC News, Professor Andrew Bartholomeus, Adjunct Professor of Toxicology and Pharmacy at University of Canberra, described the study as “interesting” but having “fairly low relevance” to determining the risk of BPA to humans, because “our cells are not exposed to BPA in the form that was used in the study.”  Professor Bartholomeus makes the point that in humans, BPA consumed in food or drink is metabolised before it enters the bloodstream, whereas in the experiment, cells were taken out of the body and bathed in a solution which had BPA in it.

On their website, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) acknowledge consumer concerns about BPA exposure, but note “the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that there is no health or safety issue at the levels people are exposed to.” (Last updated April 2012). While Canada, the European Union and some States in the US have banned BPA (due to consumer pressure, not risk assessment conclusions, points out FSANZ), the Australian Government has introduced a voluntary phase out of BPA use in polycarbonate baby bottles.

If BPA exposure is of concern to parents, food containers and baby bottles without BPA are available to buy in Australia.

FSANZ offers consumers a Fact Sheet and a Full Report on their activities in relation to BPA.

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

You may also like to read our previous article on the behavioural effects of BPA, linked below.