Your endocrine system, disrupted
Is it too much to ask that mixing synthetic estrogen and toxic gas not have any serious consequences? Apparently so. Because that little "synthetic estrogen" part doesn’t quite disappear when it’s manufactured. In 1988, geneticist Patricia Hunt accidentally discovered that BPA has a sneaky habit of leaching out of its plastic form and into whatever it touches. This is why you may have heard that you shouldn't reuse disposable water bottles, or why you can't microwave certain plastics.
What made the discovery of this tendency to leak such a huge concern is the estrogenic nature of BPA. Introducing a synthetic hormone like BPA into an organic host has some (surprise!) dangerous side effects. After Hunt's chance discovery, BPA turned from plastic all-star into a much more dubious endocrine disruptor -- though, as with most discoveries that something convenient is bad for you, this news took a while to make it to a mainstream audience.
And if the term "endocrine disruptor" sounds scary, that’s because it is. Endocrine disruptors cause chaos on a cellular level, interfering with almost every bodily function possible; BPA has been linked to reproductive problems, ADHD, diabetes and obesity, metabolic disease, miscarriages, poor brain development… and that’s just the shortlist.
Despite the mounting evidence against BPA from a multitude of independent studies, the FDA continues to claim that BPA is perfectly safe. Why exactly they hold desperately to that stance is the subject of many theories. But regardless of the FDA’s motivations, the uproar of global consumers was enough to convince manufacturers to replace BPA in almost every food-related product.
That's great news! Industry has saved us from the dangers of BPA!
Luckily for you, BPA bottles (and your favorite sippy cup) are hard to come by these days. Not so luckily for you, the replacements aren’t great, either. A 2011 study found that BPA-free products leach just as much, and in some cases, even more estrogenic chemicals than BPA. You’d think manufacturers could find something besides synthetic estrogen to work with, but hey, when's the last time YOU tried to mass-produce plastic?
BPA’s most common replacement, BPS, has recently been put under the microscope, and the findings aren’t pretty. BPS is equally as damaging to brain development as BPA. Another study showed that BPS exposure can actually lead to "cell death," even at extremely low doses. A 2015 review of 32 studies concluded that BPS has the same endocrine-disrupting properties of BPA. In short, taking the BPA out of plastic probably doesn't make it any better for you or the world