How daily routines are affecting our health, future generations
Updated: Apr 25
By Nicole Jaramillo
You just woke up, got out of bed, brushed your teeth, and hopped in the shower.
After cooking breakfast and adding creamer to your coffee, you put on sunglasses, grab a water bottle and head out the door.
A harmless morning.
Except it wasn't.
It turns out that for many Americans, our daily routines are quite dangerous because we are constantly being exposed to BPA.
What is BPA?
Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is a chemical compound found in a plethora of daily products that allows us to make polycarbonate plastic.
This type of plastic is durable and strong - and also the plastic we see in so many of our household items.
Everything from toothbrushes, sunglasses, plastic food containers, the lining in canned goods, baby bottles and most containers for liquid products from cleaners to drinks are contaminated with BPA.
Basically, any type of plastic we come in contact with contains this chemical.
BPA falls under what is called an Endocrine Disruptor, meaning that it affects and alters our hormone levels by either increasing or decreasing them.
Another common endocrine-disrupting chemical we come in contact with through plastics is phthalates.
Which accounts for flexible durable plastics we use on a daily basis.
Why is BPA so dangerous?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EDC is defined as “the externally produced compounds that impede the formation, excretion, metabolism, and functionality of endocrine hormones,” as stated in Isra Medical Journal.
The problem with this is that our bodies have a natural hormone level, and when that number gets altered, we are more susptal to illnesses and harmful health conditions.
Tom Neltner, senior director of the safer chemicals division of the Environmental Defense Fund, told edf.org it is "imperative" the FDA take action to limit BPA contamination of food.
“And given the significant risks, the industry should not wait for the FDA to act," he said. "They need to find safer alternatives to BPA or drastically reduce the migration of the chemical into food to protect children from harm.”
BPA affecting fertility
In fact, one in seven women in North America experience difficulty getting pregnant, according to a study by Dr. Joseph Pizzoorno, who found a connection between exposure to environmental toxins and infertility issues.
An example of the impact of environmental toxins on fertility is that women are having difficulty getting pregnant at a younger age than is normal.
Defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex, infertility naturally becomes an issue for women after age 35.
But increasingly, women in their late 20s and early 30s are having trouble.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, low exposures to BPA aren’t harmful, but we are increasingly exposed to dangerous amounts due to getting it through contaminated food, water and air plus absorbing it through the skin.
Dr. Jodi Flaws, comparative bioscience researcher at the University of Illinois, says the high level of exposure to BPA is a “significant cause of progressive loss of fertility [due to this] increasing body load of environmental toxins in both men and women.”
Flaws mentions that these EDCs, such as BPA and phthalates, are harmful “because they disrupt the endocrine system (the ability to synthesize, metabolize, or respond to hormones).
Further, studies also show that women have higher exposure to phthalates than men.
This is likely because phthalates are present in personal care products and women are more likely to use more personal care products than men.”
Regulations on a federal level have been put in place in countries such as Canada, Malaysia, China, and the European Union.
Thus banning the chemical from some of its previous practical uses.
“Most Americans get 5,000 times more BPA in their daily diet than the EFSA [European Food Safety Authority] expert panel says is safe,” Neltner told edf.org.
Not only are exposures to BPA affecting natural reproduction, but also IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).
IVF is an assisted reproductive technology which joins the female egg and male sperm in a lab and outside of the body.
In the study conducted by Pizzorno they found that women drinking out of bottled water and “undergoing IVF, [where] those with[in] the top 25% body load of BPA levels [and] were 211% more likely to have implantation failure.”
How BPA is affecting our species
Researchers have gone to lengths to understand the consequences of BPA, including studying its effects on mice to predict how it might affect humans.
Molecular bioscience researcher Patricia Hunt has been researching the effects of exposure to BPA for more than two decades.
She has observed BPA in monkeys, fish, worms and humans.
While a lot of people have tried to dismiss her study as just research on mice or worms or flies, she points out that when the same effects occur on various species there is something to be concerned about.
“You know we have to be affected too,” she said. “The results among the various species have yielded the same results in negative effects to the reproductive system. Begging the question, is this happening in humans as well?”
She is currently looking at effects on humans - and she is finding some interesting results even beyond infertility.
"One of the things that has become of interest [from current research] is some of these chemicals’ exposures can create obesity in the adult or diabetes, or certain types of cancers,” Hunt said, “so the answer is there are a whole lot of things that it can affect.”
Findings in transgenerational exposures
Researchers have recently found that the harm from exposure to BPA could be passed down generationally.
When a woman is exposed to these chemicals, her fetus (second generation) is exposed as well as the fetus’s reproductive cells (third generation).
Therefore, when they reproduce, the child will be predisposed and pass it down to their children as well.
What is being seen in the studies of carried exposure throughout three generations is explainable through epigenetics, which is the study of genes.
However, what scientists can’t explain is why the fourth generation is also showing exposure to these chemicals.
Hunt explains that after three generations our genes are supposed to reset,
But they aren’t resetting and researchers don’t know why.
This is the current question being asked.
"It's really really interesting because we don't understand how it can happen, but these chemicals are showing us it can happen," Hunt said. "And if we understand how it's happening then we can begin to say 'well how do we reverse these effects?'”
At the moment no extreme FDA bans are being placed on Bisphenol A despite scientists’ concerns and research evidence of it affecting us.
What do we do now
Hunts suggests the United States needs to consider more regulation on these harmful chemicals.
“We need to take a good hard regulatory look at these chemicals again and really rethink it,” she says. “The European Union is doing that and considering reducing the current safe level of BPA a hundred thousand fold lower. The bottom line is you gotta think of these chemicals like hormones.”
Flaws agree on regulation and also better education to the consumer. This involves trading plastic items for wooden or glass to reduce the amount of exposure as well as trying to eat food that is more organically inclined to get away from plastic packaging.
“From a regulatory standpoint, I think we need to eliminate the use of BPA and similar compounds, but I am not in a position to regulate the chemicals,” she said. “From a health education standpoint, I think we need to educate the general population on the types of chemicals we are being exposed to and inform people about the potential risks and ways to reduce exposure.”