BPA substitute could spell trouble: Experiments show bisphenol S also disrupts hormone activity

January 22, 2013, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

A few years ago, manufacturers of water bottles, food containers, and baby products had a big problem. A key ingredient of the plastics they used to make their merchandise, an organic compound called bisphenol A, had been linked by scientists to diabetes, asthma and cancer and altered prostate and neurological development. The FDA and state legislatures were considering action to restrict BPA's use, and the public was pressuring retailers to remove BPA-containing items from their shelves.

The industry responded by creating "BPA-free" products, which were made from plastic containing a compound called bisphenol S. In addition to having similar names, BPA and BPS share a similar structure and versatility: BPS is now known to be used in everything from currency to thermal receipt paper, and widespread human exposure to BPS was confirmed in a 2012 analysis of urine samples taken in the U.S., Japan, China and five other Asian countries.

According to a study by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers, though, BPS also resembles BPA in a more problematic way. Like BPA, the study found, BPS disrupts to the , changing patterns of cell growth and death and . Also like BPA, it does so at extremely low levels of exposure.

"Our studies show that BPS is active at femtomolar to picomolar concentrations just like endogenous hormones —that's in the range of parts per trillion to quadrillion," said UTMB professor Cheryl Watson, senior author of a paper on the study now online in the advance publications section of . "Those are levels likely to be produced by BPS leaching from containers into their contents."

Watson and graduate student René Viñas conducted cell-culture experiments to examine the effects of BPS on a form of signaling that involves estrogen receptors—the "receivers" of a biochemical message—acting in the cell's outer membrane instead of the . Where nuclear signaling involves interaction with DNA to produce proteins and requires hours to days, membrane signaling (also called "non-genomic" signaling) acts through much quicker mechanisms, generating a response in seconds or minutes.

Watson and Viñas focused on key biochemical pathways that are normally stimulated when estrogen activates membrane receptors. One, involving a protein known as ERK, is linked to cell growth; another, labeled JNK, is tied to cell death. In addition, they examined the ability of BPS to activate proteins called caspases (also linked to cell death) and promote the release of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates lactation and influences many other functions.

"These pathways form a complicated web of signals, and we're going to need to study them more closely to fully understand how they work," Watson said. "On its own, though, this study shows us that very low levels of BPS can disrupt natural estrogen hormone actions in ways similar to what we see with BPA. That's a real cause for concern."

Explore further: Widespread exposure to BPA substitute is occurring from cash register receipts, other paper

Related Stories

Widespread exposure to BPA substitute is occurring from cash register receipts, other paper

July 11, 2012
People are being exposed to higher levels of the substitute for BPA in cash register thermal paper receipts and many of the other products that engendered concerns about the health effects of bisphenol A, according to a new ...

Paper money worldwide contains bisphenol A

August 10, 2011
The cash register receipts that people place near paper money in billfolds, purses, and pockets has led to a worldwide contamination of paper money with bisphenol A (BPA) — a potentially toxic substance found in some ...

What to do with bisphenol A: Ban it, restrict it, leave it alone?

June 8, 2011
Despite years of scientific studies, reports, lawsuits, congressional inquiries, claims and counterclaims, the question of whether bisphenol A (BPA) poses health threats to people lacks a definitive answer, according to a ...

Study finds how BPA affects gene expression, anxiety; Soy mitigates effects

September 7, 2012
New research led by researchers at North Carolina State University shows that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) early in life results in high levels of anxiety by causing significant gene expression changes in a ...

BPA's real threat may be after it has metabolized

October 4, 2012
Bisphenol A or BPA is a synthetic chemical widely used in the making of plastic products ranging from bottles and food can linings to toys and water supply lines. When these plastics degrade, BPA is released into the environment ...

Exposure to BPA has been underestimated, new research says

June 6, 2011
A new University of Missouri study shows that the exposure to the controversial chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) through diet has been underestimated by previous lab tests. In the study, researchers compared BPA concentrations ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Caliban
not rated yet Jan 22, 2013
This was already old news when the drive to ban BPA got underway.
The only real news would have been if cheap-ass canners, bottlers, and container/packaging makers had actually broken with tradition and found a real-life non-toxic substitute.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.