Should you really use BPA-free bottles?

These days, almost all water bottles in the shops carry a ‘BPA-free’ label. Ever wondered why you should stop using regular plastic bottles and shell out some extra money to buy a BPA-free one? What is BPA-free in the first place? Bisphenol A or BPA is a synthetic chemical which is used in the manufacture of plastics since the 50s. Various plastic products apart from water bottles such as lunch boxes, feeding bottles, dental sealants, cell phones, laptops, water pipes, laboratory and hospital equipment all contain BPA.

Since 2007, the chemical has raked a lot of controversy for being an endocrine disrupter. Since the chemical can leach into food through its packaging, we have been routinely ingesting this chemical through our diet. Research suggests BPA could be responsible for many adverse health effects, which challenges the belief that the chemical is safe for use. Following are some of its harmful effects.

BPA can cause cancer
One of the most serious charges against BPA is that it mimics oestrogen in structure and function and binds to the oestrogen receptors in the body. It has been linked to endocrine disruption and causing deadly diseases such as breast and prostate cancers.1

BPA affects thyroid functions
Research says that BPA has the ability to alter thyroid functions by interrupting the workings of the thyroid hormone. BPA acts as a triiodothyronine (T3) antagonist and disrupts the functions of the thyroid hormone. This can lead to hormonal imbalance and thyroid diseases.2

BPA can cause infertility
Apart from endocrine disruption, BPA is also held responsible for causing an infertility epidemic. In men, ingestion of BPA can also cause male reproductive problems such as reduced libido and ejaculatory problems. In women, long-term exposure to BPA causes changes in ovaries, uterus, vagina and oviducts.3 4

BPA causes abnormalities in the foetus
In pregnant women, BPA can cause foetal deformities. Feminisation of male foetuses, underdevelopment of the testes and epididymides, increased prostate size, a decrease in the count, motility and density of sperm cells and disruption of thyroid development are some of the other problems caused by BPA. It also affects the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis in males.4

BPA causes vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is an extremely important micronutrient, deficiency of which can lead to depression, bone loss, low immunity, weight gain and cancer. A recent 2016 study showed proved that BPA ingestion causes vitamin D drain from the human body, leaving it more susceptible to infections and cancers.5

BPA causes weight gain
If you are struggling with weight loss and none of your diets is working, perhaps you need to get rid of those plastic bottles. BPA wrecks your metabolism by causing endocrine disruption. It was proved through a 2013 study published in the PLoS One that BPA was a possible cause of obesity in school-going children.6

BPA alters the rhythm of the heart
Cardiovascular health is also gets compromised due to the ingestion of BPA. A PLoS study confirmed that BPA was responsible for promoting irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias in women. Arrhythmias is a potentially fatal problem since it can trigger sudden cardiac arrests.7

BPA causes prediabetes
Bisphenol A affects glucose metabolism of the human body by causing insulin resistance, dysfunction of pancreatic β-cell, inflammation, fat gain and oxidative stress. A study pointed towards the association of the chemical with prediabetes, a condition which increases the chances of developing diabetes in the future.8

So should you buy BPA-free bottles?
In the face of so many scientific facts, it’s clear as daylight that BPA is one of the most dangerous chemicals out there but it is also one of the most ubiquitous. So while it makes perfect sense to avoid food containers and water bottles that contain BPA, it won’t guarantee us complete safety from this horrible chemical? BPA is a prolific environmental contaminant, present in a lot of things apart from containers and bottles. It is also present in the chemical coating of credit card receipts and bills.

While we’d like to believe that our BPA-free bottles will keep us safe from the chemical, bear in mind that the pipes that supply water to our homes also contain BPA. Same applies to the plastic container of the water cooler in which the liquid is stored in schools, colleges and offices. We also handle day-to-day items which contain BPA such as cell phones, laptops and other electronic equipment almost on a daily basis, which makes it almost impossible to escape from it. S

BPA is also being made the scapegoat to deflect attention from the other horrible chemicals your plastic bottles can contain. The BPA-free brigade fails to take into account other horrible chemicals like phthalates, BPS, lead and antimony which are routinely used in bottle manufacturing. While it is absolutely necessary to reduce our exposure to BPA, we should be wary of the other dangerous chemicals in our plastic containers. The best bet is to stick to steel or copper vessels.

Reference:

1. Gao, H., Yang, B.-J., Li, N., Feng, L.-M., Shi, X.-Y., Zhao, W.-H., & Liu, S.-J. (2015). Bisphenol A and Hormone-Associated Cancers: Current Progress and Perspectives. Medicine, 94(1), e211. http://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000000211
2.Moriyama, K., Tagami, T., Akamizu, T., Usui, T., Saijo, M., Kanamoto, N., … & Nakao, K. (2002). Thyroid hormone action is disrupted by bisphenol A as an antagonist. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 87(11), 5185-5190.
3.Manfo, F. P. T., Jubendradass, R., Nantia, E. A., Moundipa, P. F., & Mathur, P. P. (2014). Adverse effects of bisphenol A on male reproductive function. In Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Volume 228 (pp. 57-82). Springer International Publishing.
4.Yan, P. P., Pan, X. Y., Wang, X. N., Wang, Z. C., Li, Z. X., Wan, Y., … & Dou, Z. H. (2013). Effects of bisphenol A on the female reproductive organs and their mechanisms. Zhongguo yi xue ke xue yuan xue bao. Acta Academiae Medicinae Sinicae, 35(6), 683-688.
5.Johns, L. E., Ferguson, K. K., & Meeker, J. D. (2016). Relationships between urinary phthalate metabolite and bisphenol A concentrations and vitamin D levels in US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005—2010. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 101(11), 4062-4069.
6.Li, D. K., Miao, M., Zhou, Z., Wu, C., Shi, H., Liu, X., … & Yuan, W. (2013). Urine bisphenol-A level in relation to obesity and overweight in school-age children. PloS one, 8(6), e65399.
7.Yan, S., Chen, Y., Dong, M., Song, W., Belcher, S. M., & Wang, H. S. (2011). Bisphenol A and 17β-estradiol promote arrhythmia in the female heart via alteration of calcium handling. PloS one, 6(9), e25455.
8.Sabanayagam, C., Teppala, S., & Shankar, A. (2013). Relationship between urinary bisphenol A levels and prediabetes among subjects free of diabetes. Acta diabetologica, 50(4), 625-631.

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