A new scientific study published online on November 19, 2014 in the peer-reviewed journal Carcinogenesis shows an estrogenic response and DNA damage caused by terephthalic acid (TPA) in vitro. TPA is a major chemical precursor of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic commonly used in food contact applications. Luciani-Torres and colleagues of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, U.S. investigated the effects of TPA on well-characterized non-malignant human breast epithelial cells (HRBECs) using in vitro endpoints of cancer progression. TPA treatment was shown to alter estrogen receptor (ER) levels in HRBECs and activate cell cycle arrest associated with evidence of DNA damage. Further, the authors have demonstrated that despite persistent TPA-mediated DNA damage such cells are not targeted for elimination and restart proliferation in the absence of TPA. This suggests that ultimately TPA may lead to proliferation of cells harboring DNA damage. TPA’s potential to induce DNA damage justifies careful consideration of human exposure to TPA, the authors recommend. Further, they conclude that it is critical to ascertain the safety of long-term exposure to TPA, especially for susceptible subpopulations such as young children.

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Luciani-Torres, M.G. et al. (2014). “Exposure to the polyester PET precursor – terephthalic acid induces and perpetuates DNA damage harboring non-malignant human breast cells.Carcinogenesis (published online November 19, 2014)