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Study finds liver tumors in mice exposed to low levels of BPA

Most metal food cans are lined with a chemical called bisphenol-A.
(Photo courtesy of Sun Ladder at Wikimedia Commons)
Bisphenol A lines the inside of most metal food and drink cans.

We’re all regularly exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A or BPA. Companies have taken it out of baby bottles, and many kinds of those hard plastic water bottles no longer have BPA in them.

But it’s still used on paper receipts and to line most food and drink cans.

Dana Dolinoy is a Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“There is mounting evidence that BPA has negative health effects in both animal models and humans,” says Dolinoy.

Dolinoy and her team found liver tumors in mice exposed to BPA from their mothers when they were fetuses, and through nursing. The mice were exposed to low levels of BPA – similar to what people are exposed to.

"This was the first statistically significant report of clinically evident or frank tumors in any organ following either early or adult BPA exposure," she explains. She says previous studies have found precancerous lesions after exposure to BPA.

“It’s really important to consider the timing, the tissue and the dose of exposure. What’s special about this study is that the timing of exposure was during pregnancy and very early development. The presentation of the liver tumors happened much later, so in mid-adulthood for these mice,” Dolinoy says.

She says they need to do more research to understand what this could mean for people.

Until a few years ago, the Food and Drug Administration said that our current low levels of exposure to BPA were safe. But new studies have shown subtle effects of low doses of BPA in lab animals. Based on those studies, the FDA now says it has some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young kids.

Here's what the National Institutes of Health site on BPA says about reducing your exposure if you're concerned:

Some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA. Parents and caregivers can make the personal choice to reduce exposures of their infants and children to BPA:
Don't microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from overuse at high temperatures. Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA. Reduce your use of canned foods. When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids. Use baby bottles that are BPA-free.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.