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At least, that’s the headline of an article in the Harvard Health Letter reporting on the study. But the study itself notes that the findings don’t prove that BPA causes premature death, but simply “adds to concerns about its potential toxicity.”

Clare Goldsberry

December 21, 2020

3 Min Read
wooden blocks with fake and fact written on them
Image: Monster Ztudio/Adobe Stock

For years now, Steven Hentges, PhD, has been debunking the fake science surrounding BPA. As Executive Director of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of the American Chemistry Council, Hentges called out the latest study published by Harvard Health in its online newsletter. Noting its “tantalizing” title — “BPA now linked to premature death” — Hentges writes on the Facts About BPA blog that the author of the article “didn’t carefully examine the study to assess whether it actually supported the title, or at least didn’t understand the significant limitations of the study.”

The executive summary appearing in the Harvard Health Letter brought up all the same accusations that we’ve heard about BPA for the past 30 years. In fact, if the claims made by these studies were true, I wouldn’t be alive given the fact that I’ve been exposed to polycarbonate (and probably some epoxy, as well) for decades. I even worked in a plastics processing plant, where we injection molded a lot of polycarbonate parts. BPA has made headlines for years because of its association with an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease in humans, said the introduction to the study. “Now, high levels of BPA exposure have been linked to an increased risk of premature death from any cause, according to a study published online Aug. 17, 2020, by JAMA Network Open.”

It seems that the study was conducted among 3,900 people who provided health information and urine samples and were then followed for 10 years. Wow! A whole 3,900 people! “Those with the highest levels of BPA in their urine had a 51% higher risk of dying during that period, primarily from heart disease, compared with people who had the lowest levels of BPA,” according to the study.

But here’s the kicker (and these kinds of statements are a big clue to just how loosely affiliated BPA is with any type of disease): “The findings don’t prove that BPA causes premature death, but they add to concerns about BPA’s potential toxicity.”

As Hentges points out in his blog post, “What Was Harvard Health Thinking?”, previous studies over the past 30 years have shown that “exposure to BPA is extremely low.” He points to one of the largest exposure studies, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHNES), conducted in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “In these studies exposure is measured by analysis of single spot samples — urine in the case of BPA.

“Results for BPA exposure reported by NHANES are consistent with results from similar studies conducted around the world,” Hentges writes. “The results from all of these studies show that exposure to BPA is well below safe exposure limits set by government bodies worldwide.”

Hentges reminds us what we know from past studies on humans and laboratory animals: After exposure, BPA is converted into biologically inactive metabolites that are rapidly eliminated from the body in urine. “We know that the half-life of BPA in the body is only a few hours before elimination,” he writes.

I too have written about BPA for many years, and reviewed some of the many studies. For BPA to be harmful, we would have to eat pounds of polycarbonate containing the chemical. Minute amounts of BPA are added to plastic to impart rigidity. Additionally, due to all of the fake science surrounding BPA, many resin producers have found other additives that work just as well. But true to form, the anti-plastics people don’t like that either, claiming the new additives are just as dangerous as BPA.

Hentges reassures us that for “well-founded scientific reason, you need not be concerned about the title of the recent Harvard Health article. There is no reliable scientific basis to conclude that BPA has anything to do with premature death. The best advice regarding BPA comes from a Q&A on the Food and Drug Administration website: ‘Is BPA safe? Yes.’”

I hope that this is the last time that either Hentges or I ever have to write about this topic. But I doubt it.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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