Research published Monday in the journal BMJ Open revealed some frightening statistics about the incidence of Bisphenol A (BPA) among teenagers: 86 percent of 94 teenagers tracking their diet and submitting urine samples in a study showed evidence of BPA in their urine.
The culprit: plastic containers and bottles that seep potentially cancer-causing chemical through food and beverages. The teenage participants attempted to reduce their exposure to BPA by “avoiding fruits and vegetables packaged in plastic containers, tinned food, and meals designed to be reheated in a microwave in packaging containing BPA,” according to a press statement. Welp—anyone who’s had a long day and wants to just nuke some food in a microwave could be getting a dose of BPA to boot.
And while the teens were able to reduce their exposure to BPA, one author of the paper noted that it’s next to impossible to avoid BPA: “Our students who followed the BPA-free diet reported that it would be difficult to follow it long term, because labelling of BPA products was inconsistent. They found it difficult to source and identify BPA-free foods.”
That’s the crux of a problem highlighted BPA literature for the better part of a decade: Warnings about the health effects of cancer-causing chemicals that trickle into food and beverages from common plastic household products that then enter our systems—from babies sucking out of sippy cups to adults storing leftovers to heat up the next day. But it’s a problem neither public health nor the government has figured out yet.
It’s not the first time that urine samples have shown that an overwhelming majority of people have BPA floating in their bodies. A 2003-04 survey conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 93 percent of 2517 urine samples of people over the age of 6 had BPA in their system primarily from food and beverage containers- for infants breast milk was a primary source.
But wasn’t BPA labeled a bad guy nearly a decade ago, when bespoke water bottles flashed the fact that they weren’t made of BPA and made slinging one around in public practically cool? Yes, but the history of BPA in our plastics runs deep—and continues to plague Western plastics consumption.
Public health advocates began warning of BPA’s dire effects several years ago, as bombshell study after study reported the chemical, which is used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, could seep into humans as they broke down. Used since the 1960s, the chemical is found in everything from plastic food storage containers to helmets to dental sealants to water bottles—products with high usage across all demographics, including children. BPA can seamlessly enter our bodies because it’s cloaked in a chemical disguise that makes it similar to estrogen. That means genes that respond to estrogen respond to BPA instead, disrupting the endocrine system and wreaking havoc in the regulation of hormones.