Misc Food Receipt

BPA: Would You Like a Receipt for Mortality Risk?

Sage advice from an attorney about making safety claims for any product: safe is a four-letter word. In other words, an absolute assurance of safety is almost always a lie. So the challenge is to figure out if something is safe enough. For example,consider the “everywhere chemical” known as BPA (bisphenol-A). A new study in JAMA Network Open this week documents an association of exposure to BPA with a 49 percent increase in mortality risk over ten years.

An Endocrine Disruptor That’s Everywhere

BPA is a chemical that’s hard to avoid. It’s present in all kinds of plastic items, including the plastic linings of food cans. It’s even in thermal paper receipts. So when clerks ask if you would like your receipt, they’re also asking if you would like a small dose of BPA. Who knew?

But fear not, the FDA says it’s safe in the small quantities that show up in our foods. That’s right. BPA leaks into your food from packaging and from food manufacturing processes. Thus, it shows up in our bodies. It’s measurable in our urine. Thus the label – it’s an everywhere chemical.

Mortality Risk

Last week’s study looked at BPA urine levels and mortality risk in a group of 3,883 adults in the U.S. The researchers analyzed ten years of data for these people and found that higher BPA levels correlated with higher mortality risk. In fact, for the top third of their sample – identified as having the highest BPA exposure – the risk of death from any cause was 49 percent higher. For cardiovascular mortality, they noted a 46 percent increase, but that was not significant.

So this is not a trivial risk. However, we have to note that this is evidence of a correlation. Causality is a tougher nut to crack. It could be that some other factor that correlates with BPA exposure is the real culprit. Nonetheless, it’s clear enough that BPA is an endocrine disruptor that can cause any number of cardiometabolic problems, including obesity.

Attention Needed

The authors of this study tell us we should be paying attention:

Our findings may have major public health implications. Exposure to BPA is ubiquitous among humans, affecting more than 90% of the general US population. Although BPA exposure has decreased over time in the United States, it was still detected in 95.7% of urine samples from participants in NHANES during the period from 2013 to 2014. Given the wide range of potentially toxic effects of BPA in humans, it is imperative and important to minimize human exposure to BPA.

With a 49 percent increase in risk, they have our attention.

Click here for the study and here for further reporting on it. For more on BPA, including tips for minimizing your exposure, click here.

Misc Food Receipt, photograph © Dan4th Nicholas / flickr

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August 23, 2020

3 Responses to “BPA: Would You Like a Receipt for Mortality Risk?”

  1. August 23, 2020 at 12:24 pm, Angela Golden said:

    Thanks Ted, I really appreciated the additional link to the ways to decrease BPA exposure.

  2. August 24, 2020 at 6:28 am, Chester Draws said:

    I drive a car. So way more increase in risk of death and disability than BPA. A choice I make happily.

    Life is a balance. Yes, BPA isn’t ideal. But do those who live lives in non-modern environments live longer? (Hint: No).

    If some modern chemicals that improve my life also shorten it, then so be it. Rather that than “pure” and die at 60, I’ll take impure and die at 85.

    • August 24, 2020 at 6:41 am, Ted said:

      Excellent. You can have my allotment of BPA, too, Chester.