The chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been much in the news lately. BPA is the building block for polycarbonate plastic — the sort of hard, clear plastic often used in water bottles — and it is found in everything from linings of metal cans, to the thermal paper used for cash register receipts, to the dental sealants applied to children’s teeth. The chemical mimics estrogen, and in studies involving lab animals, exposure to BPA, even at very low doses, has been linked to a wide variety of health problems, from an increased risk of prostate cancer, to heart disease, to damage to the reproductive system.
Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri’s Endocrine Disruptors Group, is one of the world’s leading researchers on the ill health effects of BPA in humans and animals. He is also one of the most outspoken critics of U.S. businesses and regulators for glossing over, or concealing, the major impact that BPA exposure is increasingly having on human health. Vom Staal is irate that even though BPA is quite similar to another synthetic hormone — DES, or Diethylstilbesterol — that caused myriad health problems in thousands of women in the 1940s and 1950s, federal regulators are only now beginning to take seriously the threat from BPA.