MU College of Veterinary Medicine research discovers harmful effects of alternative chemicals in plastics

Research shows that BPS is still not safe for people to use despite it being a chemical alternative.

A recent discovery by Cheryl Rosenfeld of the College of Veterinary Medicine shows that BPA-free plastic is just as toxic as plastic with chemical alternatives in them. One of these chemical alternatives is called bisphenol, or BPS, and is used to make plastics.

For this study, Rosenfeld and colleagues from different universities focused on how the BPA affected the placenta of a mouse. The team decided to use a mouse for this experiment because the placenta has a similar structure for both mice and humans.

“The substitutes have a very similar chemical structure to BPA,” Rosenfeld said. “They can bind to the same types of receptors.”

That is what led them to choose the placenta. Rosenfeld said the placenta serves as the main communication working between the mother and the fetus. Anything the mother is exposed to, the developing child can also be exposed to.

Rosenfeld’s lab is particularly interested in behavior disorders, so this led Rosenfeld to look into the effects of BPA and serotonin. According to an article from Futurity, the placenta is the primary source for serotonin for brain growth in both human and mouse fetuses.

This chemical is most commonly associated with happy feelings, but it can also affect the functional abilities of someone as well as their emotions and activities. The brain relies on the placenta to produce this chemical, and due to BPA and BPS exposure, there can be longtime health repercussions.

The process began in 2017 and took two and a half years to complete. For the study, researchers put BPA on a Nilla Wafer and gave it to the female mice two weeks prior to breeding and then gave it to the male mice. They ingested the chemical daily.

“Because a primary abroad of exposure for both chemicals is through oral ingestion, they’re in our common household items like plastic water bottles and the lining of canned goods,” Rosenfeld said.

The concentration of BPA or BPS can be seen in the mother and then seen in how it affects the placenta. The placenta gives researchers a better idea of the diseases the offspring is likely to develop.

When Rosenfeld was asked if she thought the companies would alter the production of plastic due to the chemicals, she was unsure.

“I think [to me] a single study may not convince them,” Rosenfeld said. “But I think when you start to get a ringing chorus of studies all showing the same results that could change things a bit.”

Rosenfeld thinks there should be no more cause for concern on whether or not it influences the producer’s decision, but rather it is rather up to the consumers.

The Futurity article said funding for this research came from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Additionally, there were other authors for the study from Iowa State University and University of Florida.

Vance Trudeau, research chair from University of Ottawa, commented on the topic. One thing he mentioned was how the results found in the study can be beneficial beyond mice and humans.

“Other placental mammals could be exposed in the wild through polluted waters, garbage etc.,” Trudeau said in an email. “More of a concern [to me] are the potential effects on aquatic animals such as frogs and fish who don’t have placentas.”

Edited by Alex Fulton | afulton@themaneater.com

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