'BPA-Free' Plastic May Also be Dangerous for Reproductive Health and Embryonic Development

First Posted: Feb 01, 2016 01:03 PM EST

Although there are some companies that advertise "BPA-free" products, these items may actually not be safer. Scientists have found that a substitute to BPA, called BPS (Bisphenol S) may actually speed up embryonic development and disrupt the reproductive system.

"Our study shows that making plastic products with BPA alternatives does not necessarily leave them safer," said Nancy Wayne, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In this latest study, the researchers used a zebrafish model to examine the effects of exposure to low levels of BPA and BPS. More specifically, they used levels that were equivalent to the traces found in polluted river waters. They found that both could alter the animals' physiology at the embryonic stage in as quickly as 25 hours.

"Egg hatching time accelerated, leading to the fish equivalent of premature birth," said Wayne. "The embryos developed much faster than normal in the presence of BPA or BPS."

The researchers found that exposure to low levels of BPA had a significant impact on the embryos' development of brain cells that control reproduction, and the genes that control reproduction later in life. However, they saw many of the same effects with BPS found in BPA-free products.

"Most people think of BPA as mimicking the effects of estrogen," said Wayne. "But our work shows that it also mimics the actions of the thyroid hormone. Because of thyroid hormone's important influence on brain development during gestation, our work holds important implications for general embryonic and fetal development, including in humans."

The findings are published in the journal Endocrinology.

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