Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Bisphenol A Remains in Body For Longer Than Thought

Our recent article shone a light into the dark and complex issues of bisphenol A, or BPA, a component in many consumer plastic goods. And now a new study is darkening matters further since it suggests the chemical stays in our systems for longer than previously thought.

The study, titled "Bisphenol A Data in NHANES Suggest Longer Than Expected Half-Life, Substantial Non-Food Exposure, or Both," examined how long traces of the chemical remained in the urine of around 1,500 people tested through the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their test subjects fasted for different amounts of time.

The research conclusions suggest that though the measured BPA levels shrank appreciably in the first 8 hours, significant levels of bisphenol A remained in the urine of people who'd fasted for even up to a day—essentially concentrations of the chemical were the same for people who'd fasted for 8.5 hours and for those who'd fasted for 24 hours.

And that's in flat contradiction of the FDA's assumption that the chemical is safe because it's excreted quickly.

The leading assumption that BPA is present in people's bodies because it's absorbed through food products is also brought into question with this result: The subjects were fasting, and thus no longer being exposed to BPA via that method. The Rochester team concluded that their test subjects were being exposed to the chemical through some other means, "substantial non-food exposure" as they put it, or that the BPA had been absorbed into their body fat from where it was slowly leaking, or both.

Not wishing to weigh the argument unscientifically, the research paper even states that, "Whether BPA can cause human health effects is a matter of some debate; the potential for harm to infants and the fetus is currently considered more likely than harm to adults." But the piece concludes: "In our data, BPA levels appear to drop about eight times more slowly than expected – so slowly, in fact, that race and sex together have as big an influence on BPA levels as fasting time."

In a manner eeriely reminiscent of the contrast between industry and non-industry thinking that our earlier article highlighted, Steven Hentges of the American Chemistry Council industry group, when asked by Reuters about the new study, felt it necessary to point out the results were "speculative at best." And he then spooled out the party line that BPA exposure at current levels is regarded as safe.

You can read the full paper at the Environmental Health Perspectives online journal here.

[via Reuters, RedOrbit]

Read More: The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A - Fast Company Issue 132