Parents have been concerned about the potential health effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on their children for years, based in no small part on scary headlines that have been heavily promoted. Surely parents would be interested, even relieved, to know that their concerns are not well founded.
Importantly, a new study helps to put concerned parents at ease about the health of their newborn children. As the latest study’s authors stated in a news release, the “risk [of BPA] to newborns may be smaller than previously believed.” The study found that newborns are able to efficiently metabolize and eliminate BPA from the body in the same way as adults.
It’s well established that adults can efficiently convert BPA to a biologically inactive metabolite and quickly eliminate it from the body in urine. This process, which has been studied extensively in laboratory animals and adult human volunteers, makes it unlikely that BPA could cause health effects at the low levels humans experience, at least in adults.
What hasn’t been as well studied is whether that same process occurs as efficiently in children, in particular infants. In a study published this week, a group of researchers at Johns Hopkins University set out to determine if infants, just days after birth, have the same ability to metabolize and eliminate BPA from the body.
Following a sound scientific practice, the researcher started with a hypothesis that could be tested experimentally: “We hypothesized that less efficient BPA metabolism in the first week of the neonatal period would result in higher urine free BPA concentrations in neonates during the first week of life compared with the later part of the neonatal period.”
To test the hypothesis, the researchers analyzed urine from infants in the first week after birth and later in the first month after birth. If the hypothesis is true, higher levels of “free BPA” (i.e., BPA that has not been metabolized) would be found in the first urine sample, which could indicate that newborns are at higher risk for health effects from exposure to BPA.
Although the researchers found the metabolite of BPA in the majority of the urine samples they analyzed, which indicates the infants had been exposed to very low levels of BPA, they found no measureable level of “free BPA” in any of the samples at either time point.
In the words of the researchers, “Our results illustrate … efficient conjugation of BPA to its readily excretable and biologically inactive form … as early as 3 days of age.” Just as in adults, these findings indicate that BPA is unlikely to cause health effects in newborns.
These new results provide further support to prominent government agencies that listened to the science and have offered the public reassuring conclusions on the safety of BPA. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) answered the question “Is BPA Safe?” with a single unambiguous word – “Yes.” Most recently, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that BPA poses “no health risk to consumer of any age group.”