To explore developmental neurotoxicity of environmental bisphenol A (BPA) exposure for infants and children, rats were exposed to differing levels of BPA during early life were tested to determine if BPA inhibited brain development. Researchers observed that both the lowest and highest exposed groups needed more frequent ‘lessons’ and longer times to learn than the control group which was not exposed to BPA.
Additionally, 5-HT levels were decreased (this is a precursor to serotonin) in both sexes and male rats also experienced a decrease in the neurotransmitter (NT) GABA and an increase in glutamic acid and acetylcholine. GABA is an inhibitory NT that produces feelings of calm and relaxation. Glutamic acid and acetylcholine are an important part of brain plasticity and learning/memory. Learning and memory disruption is also seen in primate studies.
We can’t translate rats to humans, but we also cannot be intentionally exposing human infants to specific doses of a known pollutant to ascertain certainty. However, initial observational research shows that human children are likely impacted.
Because chronic low doses are as impactful as high doses you don’t have to be living near a plastic plant to be concerned. Every day exposure is enough to cause problems, and research is loaded with multiple associations observed in conjunction with everyday exposure such as infertility, behavior and memory issues, hormonal disruption, and even estrogen-related cancers.
Where do we get exposed to ingesting BPA?
- canned foods
- Foods wrapped in plastic
- printed receipts
- feminine hygiene products
- dental filling sealants
- takeout coffee cups
- Plastic Bulk bins
Eliminating chronic plastic exposure is a challenge. Clearing your home of plastics and bringing your own glass or metal containers for food and beverage can reduce exposure significantly. While BPA-free products are on the rise, this doesn’t mean any other plastic is safer. Assume it is not. Other plasticizers are linked with hormonal disruption and any new plastic they come out with will have unknown effect for decades as there is no requirement for long-term safety testing with these chemicals. Eliminating plastic from our lives is a years’ long process, so be patient and consistent and you will make a significant dent in your exposure.
Additionally, a diet high in vegetables (you knew I would get here eventually) will provide you with valuable fiber to facilitate the excretion of these compounds and prevent them from being reabsorbed and stored in the body. Polyphenols, a class of numerous plant compounds found in veggies, fruits, herbs, and spices, may actually reduce the damaging effects of multiple plastic compounds by reducing DNA damage and cellular stress.
A healthy diet rich with adequate protein and abundant in produce will be the best diet to support the body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate not just BPA, but other toxicants as well. Saunas and exercise, which increase sweating, may also be a route of BPA elimination. While the number of chemicals we are exposed to continues to rise, our lifestyle can give our system the best chances to reduce impact. Additionally, genetic testing to assess whether or not there are specific detoxification enzymes which are inhibited may provide additional information as to how you can specifically optimize your ability to breakdown and eliminate pollutants and toxicants.
Zhang, H., Kuang, H., Luo, Y., Liu, S., Meng, L., Pang, Q., & Fan, R. (2019). Low-dose bisphenol A exposure impairs learning and memory ability with alterations of neuromorphology and neurotransmitters in rats. Science of The Total Environment, 697, 134036.
Hong, S. B., Hong, Y. C., Kim, J. W., Park, E. J., Shin, M. S., Kim, B. N., … & Cho, S. C. (2013). Bisphenol A in relation to behavior and learning of school‐age children. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 54(8), 890-899.
Deb, P., Bhan, A., Hussain, I., Ansari, K. I., Bobzean, S. A., Pandita, T. K., … & Mandal, S. S. (2016). Endocrine disrupting chemical, bisphenol-A, induces breast cancer associated gene HOXB9 expression in vitro and in vivo. Gene, 590(2), 234-243.
Żwierełło, W., Maruszewska, A., Skórka-Majewicz, M., Goschorska, M., Baranowska-Bosiacka, I., Dec, K., … & Gutowska, I. (2019). The influence of polyphenols on metabolic disorders caused by compounds released from plastics-review. Chemosphere, 124901.
Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: a scientific review with clinical application. Journal of nutrition and metabolism, 2015.
Genuis, S. J., Beesoon, S., Birkholz, D., & Lobo, R. A. (2012). Human excretion of bisphenol A: blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012.
Mother Jones, 2014: That Takeout Coffee Cup May Be Messing With Your Hormones
World Health Organization, 2011: Toxicological and Health Impacts of Bisphenol, A.