This week, the Breast Cancer Fund released a new and important report drawing attention to prenatal exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a synthetic estrogen and known endocrine disruptor. It is a relative of diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug that caused genetic mutations and increased reproductive health problems and certain cancers among women whose mothers had taken the drug during pregnancy in the 1940s–1970s. Used widely as a can lining in canned foods and for plastic production, BPA has become ubiquitous in the US food supply. According to the new report, more than 92% of Americans have BPA in their bodies. Unfortunately, most research on BPA is based on animal models, which leaves us to infer risks to humans rather than to study them in a controlled fashion.
Based on animal models, support is building that BPA exposure in utero and shortly after birth is linked to future health problems including breast cancer, prostate cancer, metabolic changes, decreased fertility, early puberty, neurological problems, and immunological changes. To reduce BPA exposure among infants, the substance was banned from use in baby bottles in 2012. However, by the time a child is delivered, some level of exposure has already happened. Pregnant women who consume BPA expose their developing fetus to the compound, often during the first weeks of pregnancy, a crucial time for fetal development.
At this point, potential toxins are released freely into the environment and used broadly without any research assuring their safety before their use. ACOG’s most important role will be in supporting legislation that prevents exposure to chemical sources until those chemicals are studied and deemed safe for us. In the meantime, this new report encourages reproductive health providers to make women aware of the potential risks of BPA. It provides guidance on simple ways to reduce BPA-exposure, such as using glass, ceramic, or stainless steel for food storage, avoiding cooking or reheating in plastic containers, and choosing fresh or frozen foods instead of canned. Anything we can do to increase BPA awareness among physicians and patients will help us to collectively move in the right direction so we can all be BPA-free.
Subscribe to the ACOG President’s Blog to receive an email alert every time a new blog is posted.