The unfortunate truth about “BPA free”

According to researchers from UCLA and the School of Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Shanghai University, BPA-alternative BPS is dangerous, too. Published in the journal Endocrinology, the researchers’ study used a zebrafish to show how BPS contact screwed with brain cells and genes used in reproduction and growth. What this might reveal about humans.

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Common alternative to BPA plastic is equally harmful in animal testing, study finds
"BPA-free" doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.
By Peter Dockrill

Public concerns over the potential harm of bisphenol A (BPA) – an industrial chemical used to strengthen plastic in things like water bottles and children’s toys – has seen many manufacturers develop ‘safer’, BPA-free alternatives in recent years. But one chemical that’s being used as a BPA substitute might not actually be any safer, research has found.

According to a new study by researchers in the US, a BPA alternative called bisphenol S (BPS) is in some ways just as harmful as BPA to zebrafish, disrupting their reproductive system and affecting embryonic development. The findings might mean it’s also potentially harmful to humans too, although we have no evidence of this as yet.

“Our study shows that making plastic products with BPA alternatives does not necessarily leave them safer,” said reproductive endocrinologist Nancy Waynefrom the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “Our findings are frightening – consider it the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine.”

The researchers found that when exposed to either BPA or BPS at low levels, the physiology of zebrafish at the embryonic stage demonstrated changes in as little as 25 hours.

“Egg-hatching time accelerated, leading to premature birth,” said Wayne. “The embryos developed much faster than normal in the presence of BPA or BPS.”

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Plastic debris crossing the Pacific can transport more species with the help of barnacles

The smooth surfaces of much of the plastic waste rapidly increasing in the ocean appear to provide poor habitat for animals – that is, until barnacles step in.

University of Florida researchers discovered that diverse communities of rafting animals can inhabit even the smoothest pieces of plastic debris if barnacles step in first to create complex habitat, similar to trees in a rainforest or corals in a reef. That means plastics could better transport foreign species across oceans than previously believed, said Mike Gil, who, as a doctoral candidate at UF, led the study published Jan. 27 in Scientific Reports.

Now the bad news: While conservationists generally aim to preserve biological diversity, Gil said, the diversity found on plastic debris could be harmful.

“Plastic waste provides an unprecedented amount of artificial oceanic ‘rafts’, which could allow foreign species to invade and compromise the biological diversity of natural coastlines,” he said.