BPA and BPS in Plastics May Cause Changes in Brain Development

First Posted: Jan 13, 2015 08:32 AM EST

Bisphenol A, known as BPA, is produced in massive quantities to use in consumer products. Now, scientists have discovered that both BPA and BPS (bisphenol S) may cause alterations in brain development that leads to hyperactivity.

Concerns about BPA have been raised by the public in the past, especially since it can be found in household plastics. That's why many manufacturers have replaced BPA with BPS. Yet now, it seems that there may also be issues with this newer chemical compound.

"I was actually very surprised at our results," said Deborah Kurrasch, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn't think using a dose this low could have any effect."

In this latest study, the researchers exposed zebrafish embryos to concentrations of the chemicals at levels found in the Bow and Old Man rivers of Alberta, Canada. Surprisingly, the exposure to BPA and BPS changed the timing when neurons were formed in the brains of the zebrafish.

"These findings are important because they support that the prenatal period is a particularly sensitive stage, and reveals previously unexplored avenues of research into how early exposure to chemicals may alter brain development," said Cassandra Kinch, one of the researchers.

In the second trimester, brain cells become the specialized neurons that make up our brain. Yet when the zebrafish were exposed to BPA or BPS, they received twice as many neurons born too soon and about half as many neurons born later. This, in turn, led to problems in how the neurons connected and formed circuits.

The researchers also found that zebrafish receptors targeted by BPA and BPS to mediate this early neuronal birth in zebrafish brains were androgen receptors.

"Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun," said Hamid Habibi, one of the researchers.

The findings reveal that these compounds could pose problems if people are exposed to them. That said, more research needs to be conducted. The current study, though, adds weight to other studies that suggest pregnant women should try to limit their exposure to items containing bisphenols.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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