Drinking from Plastic Bottles Spikes BPA in Urine

Don't be so eager to use that polycarbonate water bottle. Photo by iStock/Sean Locke.Students who drank cold beverages from polycarbonate bottles over the course of a week experienced a two-thirds increase of bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health.


The research, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to show urinary BPA increases with the use of polycarbonate drinking bottles-the hard-plastic bottles commonly used for beverages and baby bottles.


Other studies have linked the chemical to reproductive disorders in animals and diabetes and cardiovascular disease in humans, and others have shown that BPA can leach from the plastic into the contents of the bottle.


"While previous studies have demonstrated that BPA is linked to adverse health effects, this study fills in a missing piece of the puzzle—whether or not polycarbonate plastic bottles are an important contributor to the amount of BPA in the body," said Jenny Carwile, the Harvard doctoral student who led the research.


Throughout the first week of the study, the 77 participants completed a "washout" phase to minimize exposure to BPA. All participants drank cold beverages from stainless steel bottles, and they provided urine samples for comparison.


During the second week, participants were directed to drink all cold beverages from one of two polycarbonate bottles they were provided with, and again, the participants provided urine samples.


Researchers found the urinary BPA concentrations rose 69 percent following use of polycarbonate bottles. The participants did not clean their bottles in dishwashers, not did they drink hot beverages from the bottles. Heat is believed to increase the amount of BPA that leaches into the contents of the container.


"If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher. This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA's endocrine-disrupting potential," said Karin B. Michels, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH and Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study.


This latest study comes on the heels of a state-wide Minnesota ban on BPA use in baby bottles, sippy cups and food containers for children 3 and under, and similar bans in Chicago, Ill., and Suffolk County, NY.


Lawmakers in California and Connecticut are also considering proposals for banning the use of BPA in food-related infant and toddler products.


Environmental groups say this study should be a wake-up call for governments across the country.


"These astonishing results should be a clarion call to lawmakers and public health officials that babies are being exposed to BPA, and at levels that could likely have an impact on their development," said Renee Sharp, director of Environmental Working Group's California office, in a press release.


"The adults in this study were willing participants who understood the risk of exposure, but babies are unwitting victims of the silent but serious threat this hormone-disrupting chemical poses to their health."


Canada became the first country to announce a ban on the importation, sale and advertisement of polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA in 2008.

By Cara Smusiak| May 26, 2009
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Cara Smusiak

Cara Smusiak

Cara believes using natural products and eliminating harsh or synthetic chemicals leads to a healthier, happier lifestyle. She grew up in a family that recycled just about everything, avoided harsh cleaners and heavily-scented products, and often turned to holistic medicine. Cara has degrees in art history and journalism, and has taken classes in environmental toxicology and environmental geology. She is passionate about healthy and natural living, environmental awareness and policy, and holistic health care.

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