Scientists Hunt for Alternatives to BPA: How Safe are They for Your Health?

First Posted: May 24, 2014 12:24 PM EDT

A lot of research has been done that links bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic and other products with health problems. Now, though, scientists are finding alternatives for BPA, which could help develop safer products in the future. But how safe are these new alternatives?

Millions of tons of BPA and related compounds are produced each year. BPA can be found in receipt paper, toys, water bottles and other plastic products. In the past, studies have linked BPA with health problems that range from poor growth to cancer.

So how does BPA cause these health issues? BPA and BPA analogs belong to a class of compounds called endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can interfere with a body's endocrine, or hormonal, system.

"I think it is fair to say that many of these BPA analogs have not been thoroughly tested, yet they are used in everyday plastics such as water bottles, baby bottles, and the lining of canned goods," said Fabio Stossi, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In this case, the scientists tested the safety of BPA analogs. The researchers characterized how 18 BPA analogs affect alpha and beta estrogen receptors, which are the primary targets of this class of chemicals.

"The high throughput approach that we've refined during the past several years can simultaneously quantify what these compounds are doing to a wider range of processes such as protein levels, nuclear trafficking, DNA binding, protein interactions, transcription, cell cycle, and proliferation," said Michael Mancini, one of the researchers, in a news release. "These studies represent a breakthrough in our ability to focus precious resources on those BPA analogs and other endocrine disrupting chemicals of greatest concern."

This latest study shows a way to rapidly test compounds as scientists search for alternatives to BPA. This is crucial for weeding out compounds that have any unexpected or undesirable properties.

The findings are published in the journal Chemistry & Biology.

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