Buyer beware: “BPA-free” products are every bit as dangerous

I think we can all agree that BPA (bisphenol A) needed to be banned.

But while you’ll no longer find this toxic chemical in baby bottles or sippy cups, trust me, you are still exposed to it on a daily basis. Plastic bottles, the lining of food cans, thermal paper receipts… these are just a few of the most common and everyday places you can encounter significant doses of BPA.

BPA is carcinogenic. It’s also endocrine-disrupting — mimicking estrogen and wreaking havoc on hormones. And this makes it a smoking gun for anything from breast and prostate cancer to obesity.

The evidence against BPA has been mounting for years. As of 2014, there were close to 100 studies revealing its harmful effects. And in what you might consider a small victory, these concerns didn’t exactly fall on deaf ears.

As I just mentioned, baby products have been universally swapped out with BPA-free versions, by order of the FDA. But this growing awareness has zeroed in on adult markets, as well — taking the form of a new crop of “BPA-free” plastics (most notably water bottles) aimed at the savvy consumer.

In other words, BPA has emerged as the “trans fat” of the plastic world. The government took longer than it should have to condemn it.

And manufacturers had plenty of time to stay ahead of consumer demand and come up with a replacement chemical in the meantime.

That replacement chemical is bisphenol S (BPS). And lo and behold… it’s turning out to be just as bad for you as its predecessor.

This “safe” alternative disrupts hormones, makes you fat, and alters your brain

For starters, a new study recently published in the journal Endocrinology shows that BPS encourages fat cell formation. (Just like BPA before it. How’s that for déjà vu?)

Researchers used undifferentiated cells taken from female subjects’ hips, thighs, and abdomen. Unsurprisingly, exposure to any level of BPS triggered significant fat cell accumulations.1

And unfortunately, this isn’t the only evidence implicating BPS…

Back in 2013, cell culture experiments from a team of researchers at the University of Texas showed that BPS stimulates receptors just like estrogen. This, of course, can interfere with both cell cycles and hormone release.2

And even more frightening, it doesn’t take much to do it. Just like BPA, even miniscule amounts of BPS are capable of wreaking havoc.

What kind of havoc?

Well, one recent study revealed that both BPA and BPS overstimulate the reproductive systems of zebrafish embryos — pointing the way to futurer reproductive issues, including premature puberty. And they found that the chemicals did this, not just via estrogen pathways, but by mimicking the action of thyroid hormone, too.3

Another 2014 study found that BPS is toxic to the cardiovascular system — leading to rapid heartbeat and arrhythmia in mouse experiments.4

And yet more research—again, using the brains of zebrafish as models—found that embryonic exposure to BPS alters brain development in a way that causes problems with neural connections later in life. More specifically, triggering traits associated with hyperactivity.5

Granted, this research is limited to laboratory experiments using cell cultures and animal models. But remember, this is the same, supposedly “safe” chemical that’s now being used in baby bottles. Need I say more?

Different letter—same devastating risks

Chemically, bisphenol S is slightly different in structure than bisphenol A.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that BPS is at least as disruptive to hormone levels as its predecessor. And even small changes in this arena can lead to very big consequences for your metabolism. (Not to mention a whole host of other basic functions — from respiration to heart rate.)

So all those folks choosing “BPA-free” products in the hopes of staying healthier? Well, it looks like we’ve been duped. Again.

The worst part is that it will probably be another decade or longer before the hammer comes down on BPS — assuming it ever does. That’s just how these things go.

So I consider it my moral and professional duty to share news like this as soon as I hear it. And to give you this small-but-crucial bit of advice…

Don’t eat or drink out of plastic — ever

I don’t. In fact, I won’t use plastic for anything if I can help it. And I never, ever consume food or beverages out of anything plastic — “BPA-free” or otherwise.

I realize that glass bottles and containers are heavier — and often more expensive. But consider the cost of the alternative. The research is in, and it’s proof positive that BPS and BPA are birds of a feather — when it comes to effects on fat cell formation and metabolism, as well as hormonal, reproductive, and developmental disruption.

If this is the price of convenience, well… I’m simply not buying it.



[1] Boucher JG, et al. Endocrinology. 2016 Apr;157(4):1397-407.

[2] Viñas R, et al. Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Mar;121(3):352-8.

[3] Qiu W, et al. Endocrinology. 2016 Feb;157(2):636-47.

[4] Endocrine Society. “Common BPA substitute, BPS, disrupts heart rhythms in females.” ScienceDaily, 23 June 2014.

[5] Kinch CD, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Feb 3;112(5):1475-80.