Recently, the health effects of certain plastics, specifically BPA (Bisphenol A), have come to light in the media. BPA is actually one of a group of chemicals known as “endocrine disruptors” or “xenohormones”, which mimic molecules normally used in cell signaling. This means that these compounds confuse your cells by giving them false information.
If you imagine yourself as a cell then you can imagine endocrine disruptors as being voices in your head, or hallucinations: confusing you from being able to understand what is real and what isn’t, confusing your behavior and your thoughts.
BPA, and other analogues –molecular mimics- of sex hormones are especially damaging, since sex hormones play a major role in cell development and growth. BPA “looks” like estrogen to your body, and thus has an effect on gene expression (which genes are “on” or “off”, copied or not copied into proteins). This may not sound like much, but the effects are actually quite shocking.
Because these signals confuse your cells, they can prevent them from “committing suicide” (apoptosis) in the event of dangerous mutations, meaning an increased risk of cancer, lead to tissue being produced incorrectly, and in general encourage “miscommunication” between cells: desynchronizing your body’s processes and leading to symptoms like motor dysfunction, deformities, immune problems, and/or infertility.
The Bisphenols like BPA are especially nasty, and the reaction of the industry to public outcry about its use has led them to take ineffective steps at halting the problem: producing “BPA free” containers made out of other Bisphenols (like BPS or BPF), which seem to be equally bad if not actually worse. Even if bisphenols are entirely left out: there is still extensive estrogenic activity that is similar to the action of BPA.
One of the scariest thing about these substances is that they reach their maximum potency at very low doses: meaning a little bit can be almost, if not as bad, as a lot. Therefor we should be supremely worried about the ubiquitous presence of BPA, and other endocrine disruptors, in both our water and our food.
As Saido and Hideto Sato, Ph.D found in their American Chemical Society 2009 study: significant amounts of BPA were found at every one of the more than 200 sites in 20 countries surveyed in doses ranging from 0.1 ppm to 50 ppm.
Bisphenols were, and are, used in everything from glue (epoxy), water bottles, to the lining of our aluminum cans and even sex toys. The industry’s reaction to knowledge that the plastic they are using is essentially a genetic poison was to merely switch to a similar, but different, poison and hope they make more than enough money before anyone figures out exactly what they did. The labeling of such products as “BPA free” is a huge slap in our collective face.
These substances reduce not only fertility, but also the genetic stability. Their use, especially in so many processes, is not only irresponsible: it is insane. To add to the insanity, the FDA and the National Toxicological Program do not advise any regulatory recommendations, since the biological results of these substances are not directly deadly at any dose. The FDA’s stance is that BPA, in low doses, is alright to have in your food. Obviously, this stance also applies to all the various other Bisphenols currently in use.
That said, it may be that not all plastics are equal, but statements by interested parties about quantities being too small to be harmful make me nervous, especially considering the non-linear relationship between consequences and the size of the dose.
There are many reasons that our cancer rates are so high, that our biosphere is in danger of collapsing, and that too few know about these issues. It is in the financial best interest of the companies producing such products to avoid acknowledging these problems and their consequences. Unless people care enough to really inform themselves and others about these issues then they will never be resolved: we will just keep jumping from the original poison to the equally poisonous mimic, meanwhile ignorantly celebrating the fact it isn’t the original poison.