For years now, many of us in natural medicine have been highly concerned with estrogen-mimicking chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), found mainly in plastics, and the effect they have on health and well-being – both in children and adults. Now we have another concern, Bisphenol S (BPS). But first, let me give you a little history.
BPA was first synthesized by chemists in 1891. In the late 1930’s, scientists made the discovery that BPA acted as an artificial estrogen. The estrogen impostor would have been used as a pharmaceutical hormone but a more potent synthetic estrogen called DES was invented, precluding the use of BPA. In what should have been a warning signal to the potential toxicity of BPA, DES was taken off the market because it was linked to reproductive cancers in babies born to mothers taking the chemical. And now, decades later, similar toxic properties are being linked to BPA. BPA in plastics did not take place for another twenty years. In the 1950’s BPA began to appear in plastic consumer products throughout the world. For over 60 years, BPA has been used in the manufacturing of plastic without any law or regulation establishing its safety. See Timeline: BPA from Invention to Phase-Out.
As most know, in 2012, the FDA banned (technically the FDA delisted the material as acceptable for this application due to industry request) Bisphenol A from baby bottles. The ban resulted in manufacturers’ responding to consumer concerns of BPA’s safety after several studies found the chemical mimics estrogen and could harm brain and reproductive development in fetuses, infants and children. The concerns about Bisphenol S also began showing up in 2012. Just so you know, the “S” does not stand for safety.
The solution, we were told, was Bisphenol S (BPS) and we were assured it was a safe alternative to BPA. Bisphenol S became increasingly common as a plasticizing agent following the widespread bans on the use of BPA, and Bisphenol S can now be found in a variety of common consumer products. BPS also has the advantage of being more stable to heat and light than BPA. In some cases, bisphenol S is used where the legal prohibition on BPA allows products containing bisphenol S to be labelled “BPA free”.
For those of you who are technically minded, Bisphenol S (BPS) is an organic compound with the formula (HOC6H4)2SO2. It has two phenol functional groups on either side of a sulfonyl group. It is commonly used as a reactant in epoxy reactions, and is used in curing fast-drying epoxy resin glues. It is an analog of bisphenol A (BPA) in which the dimethylmethylene group (C(CH3)2) is replaced with a sulfone group (SO2).
Now, studies on Bisphenol-S has been found to be disruptive not only to the body’s hormone system, but to brain circuitry in developing animal embryos. In fact, nearly 81 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. And once BPS enters the body it can affect cells in ways that parallel BPA. A 2013 study by Cheryl Watson at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that even picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion) of BPS can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects or even cancer. “[Manufacturers] put ‘BPA-free’ on the label, which is true. The thing they neglected to tell you is that what they’ve substituted for BPA has not been tested for the same kinds of problems that BPA has been shown to cause. That’s a little bit sneaky,” Watson says.
“We’re paying a premium for a ‘safer’ product that isn’t even safer.
There are many types of bisphenols out there, so part of the public’s
responsibility is making sure [manufacturers] don’t just go from BPA to
BPS to BPF or whatever the next one is.”
Deborah Kurrasch – University of Calgary.
Other than plastics, BPS in the urine may also be a result of thermal paper such as cash-register receipts, where BPS has replaced BPA to a large extent. A lesser-known use for thermal paper is for ultrasound and other medical machine printouts. According to a 2012 report by the EPA, these BPA-free printouts largely contain BPS. “I think that might be the most scary use, here you have pregnant women in these ultrasound and imagery rooms handling these printouts with BPS,” said John Warner, president of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.
Another big concern is that BPS is not amenable to biodegradation and might be persistent and become an ecological burden.
Obviously, we live in a very toxic world where we are finding toxic chemicals are causing very real present and future health concerns. The root concern to all of this is that right now there is no industry regulation of these toxic chemicals. No federal agency currently exists to act as a watch-dog for testing the toxicity of new materials before they are allowed on the market. In my opinion, this is nothing short of purposeful neglect on the part of chemical companies.
From The Atlantic: “… Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the U.S. law that regulates chemicals in commerce, it’s entirely permissible to launch a new material into high-volume production without disclosing its precise chemical identity or any information about its toxicity. This makes it impossible for the public to assess product safety independently of manufacturer claims. And currently, despite EPA and FDA policies that support “safe” alternatives to a chemical of concern like BPA, neither federal agency conducts safety testing of new materials destined for consumer products before they come on the market.”
Alternatives to Bisphenol S
Avoid the following.
– hard plastic sports bottles
– plastic food storage containers
– plastic food wrap
– hard and flexible packaging
– deli containers
– plastic bags
– baby bottle components (nipple, ring, liner, etc)
– plastic dinnerware and plates
– non-stick cookware
– plastic cleaning products
– thermal receipt paper (wash hands at home after unloading bag and receipt)
– canned food and drink
Alternatives to use.
– stainless steel or glass water bottles
– ceramic or glass plates and dishes
– unbleached wax paper
– anything made from wool, cotton, hemp or plastic-free, biodegradable fibers
– make your own cleaning products, using baking soda, vinegar and essential oils (use essential oils packaged in glass)
– stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron cookware
– glass container for blenders
– wire salad spinner
– stainless steel ice-cube tray
– natural rubber gloves
– use cloth dishtowels, napkins and handkerchiefs rather than paper ones
– bar soap wrapped in paper or in an individual box that contains non-toxic ingredients
– place a water filter on kitchen faucet to replace buying water in plastic containers. Or buy bottled water in reusable 5-gallon glass containers. I recommend Mountain Valley Spring
– dental fillings and sealants. Insist on BPA-free dental sealants and BPA-free composite fillings at the dentist office
For much more information about living plastic-free, check out 100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life.
Natural Ways to Combat Bisphenol A & Bisphenol S
The following are some natural ways to help your body combat BPA toxicity .
- Probiotics including Bifidobacterium 3, Bifidobacterium Breve, Lactobacillus casei
- Bacillus pumilus
- Fermented Foods and Beverages
- Royal Jelly
- Folic Acid
- Chemical & Heavy Metal Cleansing
- Herbal Liver Cleanse product
- Use a far infra-red sauna to help with sweat detox
Truthfully, we probably are unable to totally eliminate our exposure to BPA, BPS and similar toxic chemicals that are presently found in our air, water, and food. But that doesn’t mean complacency should rule. You can always reduce your exposure dramatically by staying educated and making informed choices like those described above. And along the way, pass on what you learn to your children (the future generation) as well as the reasons you are making the choice to live as non-toxic as possible.
References & Information
Liao, C.; Liu, F.; Kannan, K. (2012). “Bisphenol S, a New Bisphenol Analogue, in Paper Products and Currency Bills and Its Association with Bisphenol a Residues”. Environmental Science & Technology 46 (12): 6515–22. doi:10.1021/es300876n. PMID 22591511.
Liao, C.; Liu, F.; Guo, Y.; Moon, H. B.; Nakata, H.; Wu, Q.; Kannan, K. (2012). “Occurrence of Eight Bisphenol Analogues in Indoor Dust from the United States and Several Asian Countries: Implications for Human Exposure”. Environmental Science & Technology 46 (16): 9138. doi:10.1021/es302004w.
Kuruto-Niwa, R.; Nozawa, R.; Miyakoshi, T.; Shiozawa, T.; Terao, Y. (2005). “Estrogenic activity of alkylphenols, bisphenol S, and their chlorinated derivatives using a GFP expression system”. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology 19 (1): 121–130. doi:10.1016/j.etap.2004.05.009. PMID 21783468.
Wang, W. et al. In utero Bisphenol A exposure disrupts germ cell nest breakdown and reduces fertility with age in the mouse. Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology.
Jenna Bilbrey (Aug 11, 2014). “BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous”. Scientific American.
Viñas, R.; Watson, C. S. (2013). “Bisphenol S Disrupts Estradiol-Induced Nongenomic Signaling in a Rat Pituitary Cell Line: Effects on Cell Functions”. Environmental Health Perspectives 121 (3): 352–8. doi:10.1289/ehp.1205826. PMID 23458715.
Ji, K.; Hong, S.; Kho, Y.; Choi, K. (2013). “Effects of Bisphenol S Exposure on Endocrine Functions and Reproduction of Zebrafish”. Environmental Science & Technology: 130711134644006. doi:10.1021/es400329t
Nutt, Amy Ellis. How to Avoid Products with Toxic Bisphenol S. The Washington Post. January 13, 2015.
Holding Thermal Receipt Paper and Eating Food after Using Hand Sanitizer Results in High Serum Bioactive and Urine Total Levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110509 Hand sanitizers as well as other skin care products, contain mixtures of dermal penetration enhancing chemicals that can increase by up to 100 fold the dermal absorption of lipophilic compounds such as BPA.
EPA. BPA Alternatives In Thermal Receipt Paper Partnership—About This Project [website]. Washington, DC:U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (updated 1 Feb 2013). Available: http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/bpa/about.htm [accessed 20 Feb 2013].