While prior studies have suggested that exposure to the widely used chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) may be harmful to people’s health, new research indicates that BPA may also be very harmful to the proper formation of the human brain.
In a study published this month in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers found BPA can have far reaching effects on neurodevelopment.
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical commonly found in household objects. It is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics and is a component in many items, beverage containers, toys and impact-resistant safety equipment to name a few. It is also used to line the inside of aluminum cans for food storage.
DNA Changes Seen in Animal Testing
The findings of the study indicate that BPA blocks a chloride transporter called KCC2. This block is present in both humans and animals and affects the proper development of the brain.
KCC2 is crucial for the proper functioning of brain cells, it transports chloride out of the cells when they mature. Improper levels of chloride can severely affect the development of neurons as they are forming in the brain. If KCC2 is blocked and chloride levels remain high, neuron circuits cannot form and connect properly.
As part of the study, scientists exposed pregnant mice to BPA. The newborn mice brains showed changes in gene activity in areas of DNA which are important to lowering chloride. It also influenced their neurons, affecting the cerebral cortex. Researchers say this can lead to neurodevelopment disorders later in life and possibly affect regulatory changes, such as weight gain.
Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina found BPA exposure affected both males and females; however, they found females were more susceptible and the damaging effects were more acute.
Results from the study show that the effects may be reversible. Brain cells treated with a certain drug that corrects the KCC2 suppression was able to compensate for the excessive levels of chloride.
BPA linked to other side effects
Many prior studies have raised concerns about potential side effects of BPA on the nervous system and endocrine system. The chemical has been found to disrupt hormones, has been linked to heart disease, childhood obesity and asthma.
More recently, researchers found exposure to BPA to decrease the effectiveness of fertility treatments and found BPA increased the risk of developing breast cancer.
In recent years, BPA was a common component in the manufacture of baby bottles and toddler cups. However, the FDA imposed a ban on the chemical from use in baby products last year. The decision contradicted a prior statement by the FDA, which insisted BPA did not pose a risk to consumers.
A ban on the use of BPA in children’s products is in effect in Europe and Canada. France has banned it from all food packaging, with Sweden following suit last year. The FDA, however, determined there was not sufficient evidence to call for a full ban of the use of BPA, a controversial decision which many believed would result in increased lawsuits concerning the side effects from the use of products containing the chemical.