Study Challenges BPA Exposure

Feb 22, 2013

A new study out of the Pacific Northwest has found people may be exposed to far less of the chemical BPA than previously thought. BPA, also known as bisphenol A, has been linked to genital defects, early onset of puberty and obesity.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., have found the amount of BPA in people’s blood is 1,000 to 10,000 times less than what earlier studies have found.

Toxicologist Justin Teeguarden says there’s a reason other studies have found high concentrations of the chemical that’s used to harden plastic. Researchers can contaminate the samples they take. Teeguarden explains how that could work:

“If I took a blood sample from you, and let’s say for the sake of the argument that there was no BPA in it, BPA could be introduced in the syringe that I used, in the little cannula that I used to hook up the syringe to your blood supply, could come from the tubes that I put the blood in.”

BPA can be found in things like baby and water bottles and canned food. It poses a health concern for children.

Teeguarden is careful to say his studies do not mean BPA is risk-free. But he says there are more toxic chemicals to worry about.

Teeguarden’s report also found that most studies on animals assume much higher levels of exposure to BPA than what people actually face in the real world.

Pat Hunt studies BPA at Washington State University. She says Teeguarden’s findings don’t mean people should stop trying to limit their exposure to BPA.

“You can argue, well, we’re not exposed to enough," Hunt says. "All these animal studies are running too high levels, and all this kind of stuff. But everything else is indicating, man, we’re exposed in ways we don’t even begin to understand.”

Washington state banned BPA in 2010. The state Department of Ecology says BPA-free products have now replaced nearly all the plastic products that once contained the chemical.

Neither Oregon nor Idaho have banned BPA.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio