Rethink needed on BPA in plastics

30 April 2014

Deakin researchers are calling for the banning of BPA in plastic food and drink containers.

A new study has provided further evidence of the damaging effects of BPA, the controversial compound used in plastic food and drink containers that is banned in most parts of the world but not Australia.

Deakin University scientists are part of an international research team led by Professor Vincent Laudet at the Institute of Functional Genomics of Lyon (France) that has discovered a new pathway for bisphenol A (BPA) to spread through the body via a protein known as ERRy (estrogen-related receptor), which plays an important role in metabolism.

The involvement of ERRy adds weight to the possibility that BPA could be a cause of obesity and diabetes.

“We know that there are links between BPA exposure and diabetes and obesity, but we do not know how it works. With what we have discovered about this new receptor, we may well have found the missing link,” said Dr Yann Gibert, a researcher with Deakin’s Metabolic Research Unit.

“Before now it was believed that BPA only affected estrogen receptors and therefore only had an impact on this hormone function. Now that we have found this new receptor, we can expand the targets of further research to developmental effects and metabolism.”

The results of this study, published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology”, add to the growing international evidence of the health risks associated with BPA, that include breast cancer, reproductive disorders, brain function and inner ear development.

"It is time for Australia to re-evaluate the use of BPA and follow the lead of Europe, the US and Canada where the product is banned," Dr Gibert said.

BPA is commonly used in the production of plastic products such as baby bottles and food and drink containers. It can leak from the container and into the food or drink, particularly when heated. Current guidelines say it is safe to ingest up to 50 micrograms of BPA per day. However, the science tells a different story, and Dr Gibert says that these guidelines need to be revisited.

“We found that the way the BPA binds to and activates ERRy is 1000 times better than with the estrogen receptor. This means that ERRy is 1000 times more potent; a tiny amount of BPA will result in a huge activation of ERRy but only a mild activation of estrogen receptors,” Dr Gibert explained.

Results of this study have strengthened Dr Gibert’s resolve to reveal the true health impacts of bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenol derivitives, BPS and BPAF.

Dr Gibert said it is unborn babies and infants that are most at risk of the effects of bisphenols.

“Older children and adults have enzymes that protect our bodies from some of the effects of BPA. However, embryos and babies have not yet developed these enzymes, making them highly susceptible to BPA,” he explained.

“It is possible that exposure to bisphenols before birth could cause developmental issues that predispose children to obesity and diabetes, which is the focus of our current research.

More details on this story can be found at:

Dr Yann Gibert Dr Yann Gibert

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