Chemical Profile: Bisphenols & BPA


There are reportedly more than fifty bisphenol structures, including BPA, BPS, BPF, BPE, and others. The most data exist on BPA, but numerous bisphenols have also been linked to hormone disruption and early puberty. Evidence also suggests BPA alternatives may be linked to breast cancer. Found in baby bottles, sippy cups, and other feeding containers, plastic food packaging, and canned food liners.

What Is BPA?

BPA is a structural component of plastic found in numerous household products including food storage, water bottles, plastics dishes and cutlery, and food packaging. BPA stands for Bisphenol A and can be found in many plastic items with the recycling code #7 or recycling code #3.

The problem with BPA in packaging is that the chemical can migrate from the packaging into the food or liquid it contains. High heat or extreme cold (i.e. microwaves, dishwashers, or freezers) can cause BPA to leech faster. Given that so many products are packaged in BPA-containing plastics, exposure to the chemical is widespread, with an overwhelming majority of the population exposed.

The Health Concern

BPA in an endocrine disrupting chemical, meaning it can interfere with hormone levels and hormonal communication. Particularly, BPA impacts estrogen receptors in the body, and exposure to it is linked to inflammation, ovarian and breast diseases, female and male infertility, early puberty, breast cancer, childhood neurological disorders, and more.

How to Avoid It

The good news is that while BPA seems to be everywhere, you actually can reduce your exposure with some easy changes. And those changes really matter. For example, one study showed that people who stopped eating all canned food and food packaged in plastic for just three days showed a drop of over 60% of BPA levels in their bodies.

  • Look for packaging made of glass, steel, and porcelain, rather than plastic.
  • When plastic cannot be avoided, choose recycling codes 1, 2, 4, and 5, as these are less toxic plastics.
  • Buy in bulk. Utilize the bulk bins at your grocery store to reduce the amount of food packaging you come in contact with.
  • Go virtual. When given the option, skip the paper receipt, which can be made of BPA-containing thermal paper, and have your receipt emailed to you.
  • Be wary of BPA-free plastics. These can often be made of other Bisphenols, like BPS. The full extent of the health impacts of other Bisphenols are not yet widely understood by scientists, but are known to leach endocrine disrupting chemicals, so it is best to avoid them. Instead, choose alternative packaging materials as much as possible.
  • Look for the MADE SAFE seal on baby products and water bottles. Baby bottles, teething rings, nookies, and toys are often made of BPA-containing plastics, which can leech from the product. In addition to being BPA-free, MADE SAFE certified products are made without other toxic chemicals linked to human health issues and ecosystem harm. Find MADE SAFE certified products here.


  1. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, (OEHHA). (2009). Evidence on the developmental and reproductive toxicity of bisphenol A. California Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange, (TEDX). (2017). Search the TEDX list: 80-05-7 bisphenol A. Accessed September 25, 2017. Retrieved from
  3. Vinas, R., & Watson, C. S. (2013). Bisphenol S disrupts estradiol-induced nongenomic signaling in a rat pituitary cell line: Effects on cell functions. Environmental Health Perspectives, 121(3), 352-358. doi:10.1289/ehp.1205826
  4. Rochester, J. R., & Bolden, A. L. (2015). Bisphenol S and F: A systematic review and comparison of the hormonal activity of bisphenol A substitutes. Environmental Health Perspectives, 123(7), 643-650. doi:10.1289/ehp.1408989
  5. Mesnage, R., Phedonos, A., Arno, M., Balu, S., Corton, J. C., & Antoniou, M. N. (2017). Transcriptome profiling reveals bisphenol A alternatives activate estrogen receptor alpha in human breast cancer cells. Toxicological Sciences, doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfx101

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