Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make lightweight, hard plastics.
What is bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is a chemical that has been used since the 1960s to make lightweight, hard plastics and epoxy resins. In its pure form, it is a white solid with a medicinal odor. More than a billion pounds of BPA are produced in the United States every year.
BPA plastic products are usually clear and hard and are often called polycarbonate plastics. BPA plastic products include food and drink packaging, water bottles, infant and baby bottles, infant feeding cups, reusable cups, compact discs, automobile parts, impact-resistant safety equipment, plastic dinnerware, eyeglass lenses, toys, and medical devices. BPA epoxy resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as the inside lining of metal food cans, bottle tops, wine vat linings, floorings, paints, and water supply pipes. Some flame retardants, dental sealants, and dental composites may also contain BPA. BPA is used in the recycling of thermal paper, such as receipts, self-adhesive labels, and fax paper. It is also used to make polyvinyl chloride plastics.
Plastic products made with BPA will have a #7 recycling symbol on them or contain the letters “PC” near the recycling symbol. BPA is not one of the phthalates, which are found in soft plastics.How might I be exposed to bisphenol A?
Human exposure to bisphenol A is widespread, according to the National Toxicology Program. Most human exposure to BPA comes through food and beverages. You can also be exposed through air, dust, and water. BPA can leach into food from the linings of canned foods and from plastic products that are made with BPA. More BPA leaches from food and beverage containers if those foods and liquids are hot or boiling. If food containers or bottles are scratched or damaged, more BPA may be released into the food or liquid. The highest estimated exposures to BPA occur in infants and children, according to the National Toxicology Program.
At home, you and your family can be exposed to BPA if you use plastic food containers, canned foods, water or baby bottles, plastic dinnerware, reusable cups, and other consumer products that are made with BPA. You can have short-term exposure to BPA following the application of certain dental sealants that are made with BPA materials.
At work, you can be exposed to BPA by inhaling it or having skin contact with it if you work at a facility that manufactures BPA or products that are made with it.How can bisphenol A affect my health?
Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, which is a chemical that may interfere with the production or activity of hormones in the human endocrine system. According to the World Health Organization’s International Programme on Chemical Safety, there is still uncertainty about some links between human health effects and exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) have “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to BPA. The NTP has “minimal concern” for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females, in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to BPA. The possibility that BPA may alter human development cannot be dismissed, according to the NTP. In cooperation with the NTP, FDA is carrying out in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the risks of BPA.
In the workplace, exposure to BPA dust may irritate the eyes, make skin sensitive, and cause dermatitis, irritated skin, and eczema. Contact with BPA may burn the eyes, lips, and skin. Inhaling BPA can irritate the nose and throat and cause coughing and wheezing. Exposure can cause headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
More research about BPA is needed to understand exactly how current findings relate to human health and development, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Toxicology Program.
If you think your health has been affected by exposure to BPA, contact your health care professional.
For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Bisphenol A (New Jersey Department of Health) (PDF — 601 KB)
Bisphenol A (BPA) (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) (PDF — 456 KB)
Bisphenol A (BPA) - Current State of Knowledge and Future Actions by WHO and FAO (World Health Organization) (PDF — 176.64 KB)
Bisphenol A (BPA). Questions and Answers about Bisphenol A (US Dept. of Health and Human Services)
Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application (Food and Drug Administration)
BPA Raising Concerns (New York University Langone Medical Center)
Check the Kind of Plastics You Use (Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center) (PDF — 1.24 MB)
Phthalates and Bisphenol A (Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units) (PDF — 196.10 KB)
Last Updated: January 5, 2015