Making sense of BPA and other hormone mimicking chemicals

Making sense of BPA and other hormone mimicking chemicals

Have you found yourself wondering what BPA is and if it is safe? There is a growing awareness by consumers about the materials we use for holding food and beverages. And rightly so. We are all becoming more conscious about what we put into our bodies, and we want to understand if the things we use to carry our drinks are made from safe materials.

BPA stands for Bisphenol A. It is a widely used chemical compound which is often found in certain types of plastics and epoxy resins used in consumer products. It is a common ingredient for polycarbonate plastics, which are typically used for reusable water bottles (and baby bottles among others). Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside surfaces of metal tins and cans to prevent them from rusting. BPA has hormone-mimicking properties. Specifically, it has similarities to the naturally occurring hormone oestrogen. Small amounts of BPA can leach from plastic into the food stuff in contains. Scientific studies 1 have shown levels of BPA in people to be positively linked with heart disease, diabetes and liver toxicity. Not good. As it stands currently BPA has been banned by the UK, the USA and the EU for use in baby products. However, all of these regions governing bodies still consider it as a safe chemical for use in plastic products for adults, due to the low exposure levels 2.

The more BPA and its interaction with the human body is understood, the more different companies are coming up with BPA-free products. What are they replacing the BPA with?  They are currently commonly replaced by other bisphenols, like BPF and BPS. Further scientific studies are needed to understand how these replacement chemicals affect our bodies, but studies have already shown they have similar hormone-mimicking properties to the BPA they are replacing 3.  They may also contain Phthalates which are a common softening agent for plastics. They are also considered to be endocrine disrupting chemicals and have been linked with childhood allergic diseases 4 as well as some being considered possible carcinogens 5.  What if the chemicals manufacturers are using to replace BPA turn out to be just as concerning when it comes to how they interact with our bodies? That would mean plastics that are labelled BPA free may be just as potentially harmful as those made with BPA.

What should we be doing as consumers. I guess it depends on how concerned you are by the scientific studies that have already been carried out. There are ways you can reduce your exposure to BPAs: not reheating food in plastic containers; reducing your use of canned foods and using steel, ceramic or glass containers instead of plastic containers 6. Obviously using glass, ceramics or stainless steel instead of plastics allows us to avoid BPA and all of it’s replacements. In truth knowledge is power. The more we learn about each of these chemicals, the more informed a decision we can make as to the best products to use when in direct contact with consumables.


  1. Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults.
  2. UK current BPA policy, USA current BPA policy, EU current BPA policy.
  3. Bisphenol S and F: A Systematic Review and Comparison of the Hormonal Activity of Bisphenol A Substitutes.
  4. Phthalate Exposure and Children’s Health
  5. Possible mechanism of phthalates-induced tumorigenesis
  6. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences advice on BPA

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