Controversial Plastics Chemical Causes Problems in Monkey Brains

By Eliza Strickland | September 4, 2008 9:41 am

Nalgene bottles A new study of a chemical commonly used in plastic containers found that it causes damage to monkey’s brains, raising new concerns over the chemical’s possible effects on humans. The chemical, called bisphenol A or BPA, has been the source of controversy for months as government agencies and scientists have gone back and forth on whether the substance is a health threat. BPA has been in commercial use since the 1950s, and is found in baby bottles, water bottles, in the lining used for canned goods, and many other items.

In the latest study, the research team exposed monkeys to levels of bisphenol A deemed safe for humans by the Environmental Protection Agency and found that the chemical interfered with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning and mood. “Our findings suggest that exposure to low-dose BPA may have widespread effects on brain structure and function,” the authors wrote [Washington Post].

These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [subscription required], come just after a group of government experts released a report saying they have “some concern” the chemical is linked to health and developmental problems…. The report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, doesn’t say BPA should be banned but that more research is necessary to understand how the chemical affects human health [The Wall Street Journal]. However, just last month the Food and Drug Administration released its own draft report stating that the amount of BPA that leaches out of containers is too small to harm anyone, including infants.

The American Chemical Council has maintained that BPA is safe, and says that animal studies can’t determine whether the chemical has an impact on humans. Meanwhile, consumers are caught in the middle of the argument, whiplashed by blasts of conflicting information. Says National Toxicology Program spokesman Michael Shelby: “Unfortunately, it is very difficult to offer advice on how the public should respond to this information…. If parents are concerned, they can make the personal choice to reduce exposures of their infants and children to BPA” [WebMD].

For more on what BPA might be doing to the human body, see the DISCOVER article, “The Dirty Truth About Plastic.”

Image: flickr/drummerguy8706

Related Post: FDA Declares Chemical in Baby Bottles Safe, but Doubts Remain

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Cameron

    I’ve switched to aluminum, i actually like the bottles way better anyways. And if it causes damage to monkey’s brains, then I’m pretty sure that the 1% difference in our DNA doesn’t affect the way the brain handles low doses of BPA.

  • Eric

    Glass containers are also good. From word of mouth (I have not seen any specific reports and statistics to back this up) is that generally the EPA is right that if you have a water bottle, the amount of BPA that leaches out into the water/liquid is minimal.
    The problem arises when you put plastic containers in the microwave (ever heat leftovers in tupperware, or warm a milk bottle for a baby?). The microwaves and heat make the BPA chemical leach out of the plastic at a much greater rate. I doubt the EPA studies considered this.

  • John Abrashkin

    In response to this piece,I wanted to clarify that BPA is found in
    polycarbonate bottles, not all plastic containers. Many stories on the
    topic omit this important point.

    Reading stories about the recent BPA debate, I have noticed that many
    reporters omit the fact that most single-serve plastic bottles — such
    as those for water, soft drinks and juices — are made with
    polyethylene terephthalate (PET), designated by the recycling symbol
    “1,” which does not contain BPA. This material is globally recognized
    as a safe, recyclable packaging material. Polycarbonate, on the
    other hand, is designated by the symbol “7” and is not recyclable. contains more information on this subject that may be useful.

  • Worried Silly

    Arrowhead refuses to address this, so for people who drink from arrowhead at the water cooler at work or have it delivered at home write letters!

  • eshuon

    john i think you may have omitted the fact that poly carbonat or PVC is the standard in liquid transport. all of your plumbing is made from it…

    you drink from it, brush your teeth with it, and bathe in it. your brain is swimming in BPA as we speak. im sure you use non-stick cook ware as well, which is known to leach a pantheon of dangerous nuero-toxins under very normal conditions.

    so yeah defend the people making a profit from your childrens demise and suffering, smart play dude.

  • Barb

    For eshuon, PVC is polyvinyl chloride, not polycarbonate. You are right about the dangers of nonstick cookware. But the chemical is Perflurooctanoic Acid (PFOA). PFOA is used in the production of
    Teflon and other non-stick surfaces and is found in the packaging of candy bars, microwave popcorn, fast food packaging like french fry and pizza boxes, bakery items, drinks, paper plates, and a host of “stain resistant” products such as carpets. Other well-known brand names containing PFOA include Stainmaster, Scotchgard, SilverStone, Fluron, Supra, Excalibur, Greblon, Xylon, Duracote, Resistal, Autograph and T-Fal.

    For Cameron, stainless steel would be a better choice. I would not use aluminum. Aluminum is found in higher amounts in the brains of Alzheimer patients. The flouride that is put into drinking water makes your body retain more aluminum. And even if you filter your tap water, most water filters do not remove flouride.

  • Research These Things

    There’s a website where the scientific studies of these chemicals and many more toxins are published. If they remove the url as spam, you can go to pubmed, Google it, and search the articles for whatever you’re looking to find out more about.

    The sad part is that they usually end by saying something like, “we can’t show direct causation…but further studies should have been done..” That’s the shame of these chemicals, they get fast-tracked approval and “we” are the long term study ourselves. Obama has appointed a former VP from Monsanto as our FDA’s top man…hello…! It’s that revolving door from the EPA to Monsanto, then from Monsanto to the FDA and round and round they go. And we expect full disclosure of the truth from the foxes who are minding the hen house?

    If I was thirty years younger I’d be camping out protesting at the FDA, the EPA and in front of Monsanto, Congress and the White House. This generation is stuck in front of Facebook and Electonic Gadgets and is blissfully unaware of the perfect storm brewing on the horizon. Anyone hear of GMO’s? That’s really scary. I’ll post the url separately so this post won’t get yanked, just in case.


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