Published on 1st February 2018


Eight-six per cent of teenagers have been found to have traces of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies, according to research published in BMJ Open.1

BPA is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of certain types of plastic; it can be found in plastic containers and water bottles, on the inside of cans and bottle tops, and in plastic packaging and till receipts, and can get into the body through our diet via highly-processed foods or foods packaged in some plastics.2 BPA has been associated with adverse health effects, and concerns have been raised that it may disrupt hormone balance.

In their study, researchers from the University of Exeter sought to examine whether self-moderation of BPA exposure is possible by altering diet. A total of 94 students aged between 17 and 19 years from schools in the South West of the UK provided diet diaries and urine samples for analysis. Participants were asked to follow a set of guidelines for the reduction of dietary BPA for seven days.

Results showed that 86 per cent of the participants had trace levels of BPA, and levels did not change significantly following the intervention diet. Participants also indicated that they would be unlikely to sustain the diet long-term due to the difficulty in identifying BPA-free foods.

Tamara Galloway, Professor of Ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter and one of the study’s lead researchers, said: “We found that a diet designed to reduce exposure to BPA, including avoiding fruit and vegetables packaged in plastic containers, tinned food, and meals designed to be reheated in a microwave in packaging containing BPA, had little impact on BPA levels in the body.

“Our students who followed the BPA-free diet reported that it would be difficult to follow it long term, because labelling of BPA products was inconsistent. They found it difficult to source and identify BPA-free foods.”

Professor Harries, Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter, said: “Our study shows that currently we do not have much of a choice about being exposed to BPA. We believe that much better labelling of products containing BPA is needed so people can make an informed choice.”

Speaking of the findings, Dr Joseph Pizzorno, one of the world’s leading authorities on science-based natural medicine, said he was “quite surprised to hear only 86 per cent have at least traces of BPA as it is so prevalent”. In his textbook, Clinical Environmental Medicine, written with environmental medicine expert Dr Walter Crinnion and due for publication on 2 July, he presents evidence that BPA may contribute to a wide range of health problems, from infertility, hormone-dependent tumours such as breast and prostate cancer, and several metabolic disorders including PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), insensitivity to insulin and diabetes, to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease.

An analysis of the research by Bazian for NHS Choices’ Behind the Headlines does point out that the sample used in this study is far too small to be representative of all teenagers nationally. Furthermore, it also reports that: “After public consultation on the possible risks of BPA from 2013-14, the UK Food Standards Agency supported the conclusion of the European Food Standards Agency that ‘on the balance of evidence, at current levels of exposure there is no appreciable health risk’.” It adds that: “It's likely that there needs to be a change in national policy around BPA in plastic packaging to make a real difference to our exposure. Such a move would only come when there's firmer evidence that BPA is a health risk.”


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    1. Galloway TS et al (2018). An engaged research study to assess the effect of a ‘real-world’ dietary intervention on urinary bisphenol A (BPA) levels in teenagers. BMJ Open, 8(2), e018742.