BPA (bisphenol-A), a hormone-disrupting chemical commonly used in plastic food and drink containers and bottles, aluminum can linings and thermal cash register receipts, has been linked to an increased risk of death according to a study published in JAMA Network Open in August.

Researchers found that individuals with the highest levels of BPA in their urine had a 49% increased death rate from all causes and a 46% higher death rate from cardiovascular disease compared with those with the lowest urinary BPA levels, based on data from 3,883 adults in the U.S. aged 20 or older over a 10-year period.

This finding impacts potentially millions of Americans because, as the study authors write, BPA has been detected in more than 90% of urine samples in the general population. As well, scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found BPA in the urine of nearly everyone tested, indicating “widespread exposure” to BPA in the U.S.

Of note, “Participants with higher urinary BPA levels were more likely to be younger, male, and non-Hispanic Black and have lower educational level, lower family income, lower physical activity, higher total energy intake, poorer dietary quality, and higher BMI.”

Common Sources of BPA Exposure

Food contaminated from aluminum can linings and contaminated beverages are the most common sources of BPA exposure, while the second-highest level of exposure comes from thermal cash register receipts, Dr. Leonardo Trasande, study author and director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health, told CNN.

Although BPA is found in other items such as toys, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, home electronics, dental filling sealants and sporting goods, exposure through oral ingestion is most concerning. 

BPA Health Risks and the FDA Response

Researchers have found potential links between BPA exposure and increased risk of a range of medical conditions including diabetes, childhood obesity, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.

BPA was banned in baby bottles and sippy cups by the FDA in 2012 in response to a petition filed by the American Chemistry Council. 

Despite this ban, the FDA continues to assert the safety of current BPA exposure levels.

“FDA’s current perspective, based on its most recent safety assessment, is that BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods. Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging,” the FDA website states.

“BPA Free” May Not Be Any Safer

Public health concerns have led to the increasing use of BPA substitutes such as BPS (bisphenol-S) and BPF (bisphenol-F). These substitutes, however, are from the same chemical family and are molecularly very similar

“There’s studies comparing different bisphenols that find similar effects to BPA, in some cases even worse results. They’re no guarantee of a safer product,” Patricia Hunt, professor of molecular bioscience at Washington State University and co-author of a 2019 study which raised questions about the accuracy of FDA methods for testing BPA levels, told MedTruth. “Although it’s a great marketing tool, because consumers reach for that ‘BPA Free’ and they’re probably willing to pay more.”