How is it that a chemical found to alter reproductive development in animals gets used in baby bottles? How can it be that a substance linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease is routinely used in food and drink containers? The chemical bisphenol A (BPA for short) has been associated with everything from neurological effects to miscarriages. Yet it’s in hundreds of products we use every day, and there’s a better than 9 in 10 chance that it is coursing through your body right now.
To understand how chemicals that may pose health risks come to be widespread in our society, we need to explore how scientists and policymakers study toxic substances and other environmental health risks—and the vexing challenges these pursuits entail. Chemists first synthesized BPA, an organic compound with the chemical formula C15H16O2, in 1891. As they began producing plastics in the 1950s, chemists found BPA to be useful in creating epoxy resins used in lacquers and coatings.
Epoxy resins containing BPA were soon being used to line the insides of metal food and drink cans and the insides of pipes for our water supply, as well as in enamels, varnishes, adhesives, and even dental sealants for our teeth.
This chemical is harming snails, insects, lobsters, fish, frog, reptiles, birds, and rats, and the chemical industry is telling people that because you’re human, unless there’s human data, you can feel completely safe. Dr. Frederick vom Saal, BPA researcher