BPA-Free Plastics Still Leach Estrogen-Mimicking Chemicals: Report

Think you’ve escaped hormone-mimicking chemicals because you dumped all those BPA-packed products? Think again.



Think you’ve escaped the wrath of hormone-mimicking chemicals just because you have somehow managed to avoid BPA-packed products? Think again. BPA, a compound that mimics estrogen, which is found in many plastics , isn’t the only issue in plastic products. A report from Georgetown University, PlastiPure, and CertiChem (a chemical testing company) found that even BPA-free plastics have estrogenic activity.

Researchers involved in the study bought over 450 plastic items that come into contact with food, including bags, baby bottles, and deli packaging, from major retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods. Many, but not all of the items were BPA-free. The result:

Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled,
independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source, leached
chemicals having reliably-detectable estrogenic activity (EA), including those advertised as
BPA-free. In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having
more EA than BPA-containing products.

The problem is that testing couldn’t reveal which chemicals are the culprit. But all hope isn’t lost.

Some of the products tested came up EA-free, which means it is possible to make clean plastics. And according to the study, “We we can identify existing, or have developed, monomers, additives or
processing agents that have no detectable EA and similar costs. Hence,
our data suggest that EA-free plastic products exposed to common-use
stresses and extracted by saline and ethanol solvents could be
cost-effectively made on a commercial scale.”

This isn’t, however, a problem that can be fixed with consumer buying power–there’s no way to tell which products are EA-free with the naked eye. It’s up to government regulators and manufacturers to fix. And for that, we might be waiting a long time.


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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more