CALGARY, Alberta, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Bisphenol A, more commonly referred to as BPA, is a carbon-based synthetic compound used in the production plastic products, including food containers. Concerns over the compound's potentially harmful effects on human hormones spurred makers of baby bottles to abandon its use, opting instead for supposedly safer bisphenol S.
But a new study suggests bisphenol S may not be a safe alternative. The new research, conducted by scientists at the University of Calgary, found a link between the compound and hyperactivity in zebrafish.
The FDA no longer certifies the safety of BPA for use in products intended for infants -- as a result of market abandonment, not safety concerns -- but the agency has sponsored a number of studies that confirm BPA's safety at the low levels found in some foods. Plastic bottles and the lining in canned food have been shown to leach trace amounts of BPA into the food and liquids they contain.
The latest study out of Canada, however, suggests consumers are smart to be wary of the exposure of infants and children to BPA. The new study found both BPA and its supposedly safer alternative, bisphenol S, to manipulate the proper formation of neurons in embryonic zebrafish, resulting in hormonal imbalances and hyperactivity in the maturing test subjects.
"I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn't think using a dose this low could have any effect," study author Deborah Kurrasch, a researcher at Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine, said in a press release.
"These findings are important because they support that the prenatal period is a particularly sensitive stage, and reveals previously unexplored avenues of research into how early exposure to chemicals may alter brain development," added co-author and Calgary grad student Cassandra Kinch.
More research is needed to confirm that the chemicals affect human brain development the same way they do zebrafish, the study's authors say. Still, there's mounting evidence, Kurrasch and her colleagues say, that pregnant women and newborns should avoid all kinds of bisphenols.
The findings also shed light on the risks of trusting untested alternatives to potentially harmful chemical compounds.
"A lot of the alternative chemicals have not been adequately tested because they don't have to be," Kurrasch told the Washington Post. "A compound is considered safe (by the Food and Drug Administration) until proven otherwise."