“What's kind of disturbing about this is hormones regulate almost everything in our bodies,” says Johanna Rochester, senior scientist with the nonprofit The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, who was not involved in the work. In the case of BPA, concerns surround its estrogen-mimicking effects.
In the past couple decades, research on BPA has exploded. A slew of studies document negative reproductive, developmental, and metabolic effects in a menagerie of wildlife— rhesus monkeys, zebrafish, nematodes, and mice. Even human studies have linked BPA to a range of health issues.
In the 1950s, BPA was used in the first epoxy resins. Soon after, Bayer and General Electric discovered the molecules had a nifty trick: They could link together with a small connector compound to form a shiny, hard plastic known as polycarbonate.
Soon, BPA was everywhere: reusable water bottles, plastic plates, the liners in canned foods, sippy cups, grocery receipts, and even some dental sealants. But as people drank from their water bottles and ate their microwaved dinners, they were unknowingly dosing themselves with small amounts of BPA that leached from the plastic containers into their food and drink.
The compound has since become so ubiquitous that of the 2,517 people tested in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 93 percent had detectable levels of BPA in their urine.