Food Industry’s Switch to Non-BPA Linings Still Poses Health Risks
By George Citroner
Bisphenol A (BPA) is well-known for its estrogen-mimicking properties (Trusted Source), and is used in many canned foods. While manufacturers have been removing this compound from their products, new research is showing that the substitute might be just as bad.
Bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF) are manufactured chemicals now being used to replace the BPA in plastics lining aluminum cans and items like cash-register receipts.
But, according to a study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, these two substances are also linked with an increased likelihood of childhood obesity.
Children With Higher Levels Are More Likely to Be Obese
Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (Trusted Source) to evaluate associations between BPA, BPS, and BPF, and body mass outcomes among children ages 6 to 19.
They found children with higher levels of BPS and BPF in their urine were more likely to be obese compared to those with lower levels.
Asked if she found the findings surprising, study author Melanie Jacobson, PhD, MPH, of NYU School of Medicine, told Healthline, "Unfortunately not. BPF and BPS have almost the same chemical structure as BPA, so we might expect that they could act similarly in the body."
"Previous research has shown similar findings in both children and adults. For example, in a previous study, we found that BPA was associated with a higher prevalence of obesity in U.S. children, and this study found the same trend among these newer versions of that chemical," said Jacobson.
Bisphenol Disrupts the Body’s Metabolism
BPA had already been identified as an obesogen in a 2017 study (Trusted Source).
"An obesogen is a substance that disrupts the endocrine system and the body's metabolism such that it promotes fat accumulation, weight gain, and obesity," Dr. Nagendra Gupta, internist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, explained.
He continued: "It actually belongs to a class of chemicals, which are known as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals look like and act like hormones, thus confusing the human endocrine system and causing disruption of its normal functions, resulting in a variety of effects, some of which can be harmful."
Exposure to These Chemicals Is Common
"Our study was about exposure to bisphenols, which are synthetic chemicals found in aluminum can linings, plastics, thermal paper receipts, and other consumer products, and their association with obesity among a nationally representative sample of U.S. children and adolescents," said Jacobson.
"We found that children who had greater levels of these chemicals in their urine were more likely to be obese compared with children with lower levels," she said.
"We conducted this study because exposure to these chemicals is very common in the U.S.," she continued. "Bisphenol S and bisphenol F are replacement chemicals for bisphenol A, which has been decreasing in use in recent years due to concern over potential health effects."
"These compounds basically mimic the effects of some hormones such as estrogen and glucocorticoids, which play an important role in metabolism of fat and reproductive health," Gupta said.
Bisphenol’s Are Recognized as Safe By Old FDA Rule
Some chemicals used in the process of packaging or preparing foods, like bisphenol, fall under a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rule called Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
This means that substances added to food must be FDA-reviewed unless the substance is "generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use."
The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement that many of these substances were grandfathered for approval because they were considered GRAS during the 1950s. However, this doesn't consider the impact of chemicals that can be absorbed into food indirectly, such as through dyes or packaging.
The Academy also said "the GRAS process, although intended to be used in limited situations, has become the process by which virtually all new food additives enter the market. Consequently, neither the FDA nor the public have adequate notice or review."
Responding to growing concerns over bisphenol and other chemicals, then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and FDA Deputy Commissioner Anna Abram said in a 2018 statement (Trusted Source): "Food safety is at the core of the agency's mission to protect and promote public health for our nation's consumers. We take seriously our commitment to the consumers and industry who look to the FDA for important guidance when it comes to our nation's food supply, including the safety of substances used in food."
Minimizing Your Exposure to Bisphenols
According to Jacobson, some manufacturers are using naturally-based can liners, such as oleoresin.
"However, without a clear label to differentiate bisphenol from non-bisphenol linings, parents can minimize children's exposure by reducing consumption of processed foods such as canned foods, avoiding thermal paper receipts, and not microwaving polycarbonate plastic food containers."
She cautioned, "Although our study did not examine pregnant women, avoiding exposure to these chemicals is advised given the vulnerability of the fetus to any chemical exposures."
"These chemicals can be present in basically anything. Besides plastics and aluminum cans, BPS is found on a variety of surfaces, such as documents generated from a thermal printer. Likewise, many skin lotions are packaged in plastic bottles that might result in exposure to bisphenol compounds," explained Gupta.
"Given the labeling restrictions confined only to BPA as of now, it is very hard for people to screen for the presence of BPS and BPF in plastics," he said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
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The Navajo Nation covers the corners of three different states. Google Maps
Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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DAN medical experts explained the difference between normal lungs, on the left, and "very serious lungs caused by COVID-19," on the right. Matias Nochetto / Divers Alert Network (DAN)
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