Three recently published peer-reviewed studies discuss sources, exposure levels, and human health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) including bisphenols, parabens, and benzophenones, which are also widely used in food packaging.
In a study published on September 3, 2021, in the journal Current Research in Food Science, Shabana Siddique and colleagues from Health Canada in Ottawa analyzed the migration of 16 bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7) analogs from baby bottles and sippy cups. The scientists bought 20 brands of baby bottles and 13 sippy cups in Eastern Ontario, Canada, and performed migration tests according to the US Food and Drug Administration’s (US FDA) recommendations applying several food simulants and exposures of up to 10 days at 40 °C. Using targeted liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS), they found BPA and bisphenol S (BPS, CAS 80-09-1) in samples of all brands. Mean concentrations of both BPA and BPS increased by 1.4-fold when 50% ethanol instead of water was used as a simulant. In the migrates of polypropylene (PP) bottles, most of the 16 BPA analogs were detected. According to the study results, the migration of the analyzed bisphenols does not increase in repeated use. Although Siddique and colleagues reported low concentrations of bisphenols migrating into the simulants, “they warrant a regular and accurate monitoring of these chemicals, which also act as endocrine disruptors because of the vulnerability of the exposed group,” and also because “the scarcity of toxicity data the potential health significance of the low concentration of the chemicals detected remains unknown.”
In 2010, the import and sale of polycarbonate (PC) baby bottles containing BPA were prohibited in Canada. The European Union followed Canada in 2011 when it prohibited the use of BPA in infant feeding bottles. This has led to an increased use of alternatives, such as BPS and BPF (CAS 620-92-8) (FPF reported). However, these substitutes are often structurally very similar to BPA and have been found to induce a range of human health and environmental impacts including endocrine disruption (FPF reported, here, and here). Thus, in January 2021, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada (HC) proposed the grouping of 343 chemicals related to BPA under its Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) (FPF reported).
L.M. Iribarne-Durán and co-authors from the Instituto de Investigación Biosanitaria de Granada, Spain published a review on bisphenol, paraben (PB), and benzophenone (BP) concentrations in human breastmilk in the journal Science of the Total Environment on September 20, 2021. The authors systematically searched Medline, Web of Science, and Scopus databases for peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2020 and performed a meta-analysis on the 24 epidemiological and 26 methodological studies that met their criteria. Taken together, these studies have analyzed 3021 samples from American, Asian, or European women with 74% looking at bisphenols, 42% at PBs, and 20% at BPs. BPA was detected with a frequency of 64%, benzophenone-3 (BP-3, CAS 131-57-7) of 40%, and PBs with a frequency between 28 and 63%. The measured mean concentration in the reviewed studies were in the range of 0.1 – 3.9 ng/mL, 0.5 – 72.4 ng/mL, and 0.1 – 1063.6 ng/mL, respectively.
Iribarne-Durán et al. also analyzed differences in concentrations between continents and over time, and they assessed sociodemographic, anthropometric, reproductive, and lifestyle factors related to the exposures. For instance, they found BPA and PBs concentrations to be highest in the breast milk of Asian women and samples collected after 2010. According to the authors, the “review confirms the widespread presence of bisphenols, PBs, and BPs in human milk and the need to investigate further the potential health risks they pose to the breastfeeding infant.” However, they highlight that some research has a high risk of bias making studies without such bias necessary to identify factors responsible for the presence of these EDCs in human breast milk and to determine health impacts. The exposure to the three chemical groups analyzed in the review was previously associated with increased diabetes risk (FPF reported), and recent studies have analyzed effects following exposure to EDCs (including BPA and a PB) during pregnancy (FPF reported).
In a review published online on September 23, 2021, in Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Akhgar Ghassabian from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, United States, and co-authors discuss the exposure of children to EDCs and the resulting effects. The article works to clarify existing myths and propose measures on an individual, community, and policy level to reduce exposure.
The authors point out why children are particularly vulnerable to EDC exposure. For instance, that children have a lower metabolic capacity while being exposed to higher levels of EDCs, which are also present in childcare products such as baby teethers and feeding bottles (FPF reported and here). Subsequently, the review summarizes epidemiological evidence showing “programming effects of EDCs on neuronal, metabolic, and immune pathways as well as on endocrine, reproductive, and renal systems.” According to the authors although evidence is increasing that EDCs affect children’s health, misperceptions are also being promoted that are delaying protective action. Thus, they address some currently circulating myths by answering questions such as “How do we know that EDC exposures cause disease and dysfunction?” and “If EDC exposures are low, can they really cause harm?” Based on “preliminary but promising data,” the review proposes simple steps to reduce exposure to persistent organic pollutants, including the use of stainless steel or the replacement of furniture having exposed foam, as well as to bisphenols and phthalates through reducing the use of plastics (especially reuse of single-use articles), the heating and dishwashing of plastic containers, and the avoidance of canned foods (FPF reported). Besides exercising these actions on the individual level, the authors emphasize that governmental interventions are also needed to prevent exposures. They conclude that “a hazard-based approach to regulation would be supported by a strong premarket testing framework and an independent body of scientists that reviews evidence for action.”
Iribarne-Durán, L., M. (2021). “Concentrations of bisphenols, parabens, and benzophenones in human breast milk: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Science of the Total Environment. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150437
Siddique, S. (2021). “Investigation of the migration of bisphenols from baby bottles and sippy cups.” Current Research in Food Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.crfs.2021.08.006
Ghassabian, A. (2021). “Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Child Health.” Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-021921-093352