Prenatal and Postnatal BPA Exposure

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical used in a variety of everyday consumer products, including bicycle helmets, the plastics used to manufacture water bottles, baby bottles and utensils and the linings of many food cans. For more than a decade scientific evidence has accumulated to suggest that exposure to BPA, a chemical that is useful as a building block for plastics and epoxy resins and also closely resembles estrogen, may be linked to a host of health problems, including the development of cancers.

The Breast Cancer Fund released a detailed report in 2013 summarizing the existing evidence on prenatal exposure to BPA and the long-term effects it may have on women’s health. Citing evidence from forty-eight separate animal studies, the organization found that a significant number of studies suggest that prenatal BPA exposure has significant, negative effects on mammary gland development, possibly predisposing mammary glands to tumors. Evidence from thirteen studies in humans suggested that prenatal exposure to BPA may be linked to physical and behavioral effects later in life.

Interpretations and Implications

In response to mounting evidence and a vocal public, many manufacturers of plastic products used for foods and consumables, particularly items used by children, have switched to materials that do not contain BPA. However, the chemical is still found in many products. A study by Health Affairs released in January 2014 presented the first estimate of the potential disease burden and costs associated with ongoing exposure to BPA. It found $2.98 billion in annual costs attributable to BPA-associated childhood obesity and adult coronary heart disease. Of that amount the study identified $1.49 billion in childhood obesity costs, the first environmentally attributable costs of child obesity to be documented. The Breast Cancer Fund’s review of studies suggests, however, that if there is significant evidence that prenatal BPA exposure may also be harmful, steps should be taken to limit its use in all food packaging as a precautionary measure.

Sources: (1) Breast Cancer Fund. 2013. “Disrupted development: the dangers of prenatal BPA exposure,” URL: http://www.breastcancerfund.org/assets/pdfs/publications/disrupted-development-the-dangers-of-prenatal-bpa-exposure.pdf. Accessed September 26, 2013; (2) Leonardo Trasande. 2014. “Further Limiting Bisphenol A In Food Uses Could Provide Health And Economic Benefits,” Health Affairs, [33(2): 316-323.]


jess Werder headshot BWJessica Werder earned an M.P.H. from State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, and is Community Outreach Manager for the Fairfax County Health Department in Virginia. With the Peace Corps in Nicaragua from 2008-2010, she was a Community Health Promoter whose responsibility was to design, implement and evaluate department-wide community health programs, then, on her return to the States, continued this work with the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP). She was a graduate fellow at the SUNY Center for Women in Government and a Lecturer in the Department of Women’s Studies at U Albany. She now lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and two young children. Jess currently researches and writes the “Recent Research” column for Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer! (CRAAB!), a community-based non-profit created in 1997 by a diverse group of caregivers, health practitioners, educators, advocates and breast cancer survivor. BCC is pleased to republish some of these insightful analyses in our own Research Briefs.


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