Cracking open a can of soup seems convenient, but a chemical found in the can's liner is quietly tinkering with delicate hormonal processes that help us live healthy, normal lives. Long able to evade the public because its heath impacts may not show up for decades, bisphenol A, or BPA, is revealing itself as likely throwing our hormones into a dangerous—and sometimes irreversible—tailspin, as scientists catch up to the damage it causes and even finding new ways it may be doing us harm. BPA health problems in men are coming to light now, thanks to new research.
A new animal study that will appear in the journal Reproductive Toxicology found that early exposures to BPA could promote abnormal breast growth in boys and adult men. "This study provides additional evidence that the mammary gland is exceptionally sensitive to low doses of BPA when exposures occur during early development," explains study author Laura Vandenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow of biology at the Center for Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "What is different about this study is that it is the first to suggest that the male mammary gland could be affected by BPA exposures."
The male mice in the study were exposed to very low doses of BPA and went on to have enlarged mammary tissue in adulthood, Vandenberg explains. This is early evidence that environmental chemicals could play a role in gynecomastia, a condition that causes abnormal breast growth in boys and men, and one that may cause significant emotional distress.
BPA has already been linked to breast and prostate cancers, heart and kidney damage, behavioral problems, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It's a chemical that's currently produced at a high rate, with about 6 billion tons produced throughout the world annually. The quantities are staggering, considering that a miniscule amount could cause permanent damage.
BPA is so commonly used in consumer products that it's actually starting to invade our environment, where its effects have been noted. Now detected in air, sand, and water, the chemical acts like a synthetic estrogen; even tiny doses of it could alter your body's ability to regulate natural bodily functions.
About a dozen states have taken measures to remove BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups, or the lining of baby formula cans, but researchers agree that this is only solving one part of the problem. Since of the most damaging exposure happens prenatally, if a pregnant mother ingests BPA, it could spark damage in her child that may not show up for decades. In fact, a 2012 study found that Environmental Health Perspectives.
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The wave of evidence suggesting BPA problems in men, women, and children isn't expected to subside anytime soon. The number of studies reporting low-dose problems with BPA exposure in laboratory animals continues to climb, and more studies looking at the chemical's impacts on the metabolic and immune systems, brain development, and reproduction are expected to come out by year's end.
To protect your family from harmful BPA chemicals and replacements, avoid eating and drinking from plastic containers, and if you must use them, never heat the plastic in the dishwasher or microwave—doing so accelerates chemical leaching. Say no to receipts you don't need, since BPA or potentially harmful BPA replacements are used to coat the paper and can seep into your skin. Choosing fresh or frozen vegetables and other foods instead of canned will also reduce your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals.