Reducing Your Holiday Exposure: Bisphenols

IMG_5689Article Author: Brooke Linnehan, Biology Major, Class of 2021, Protect Our Breasts Science Translator

As we enter holiday times, there are a number of activities we engage in that expose us to a significant chemical of concern. Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is an industrial chemical used to produce plastics and resins. Some common products that contain BPA include food packaging including can liners, personal care products, plastic water bottles, and store receipts. Whether it is choosing canned foods for Thanksgiving, or shopping on Black Friday, avoiding this class of chemicals – bisphenols – is important. Despite its widespread use, it is known to be a harmful endocrine disrupting chemical. 

The body’s endocrine system acts like a communication system, sending hormones and chemical signals to tell cells what to do. Hormones can tell cells to grow, divide, or make certain proteins. BPA, an endocrine disrupting chemical, is harmful because it can mimic the hormone estrogen, which has roles in growth, cellular repair, reproduction, and many other functions. BPA binds to the cell receptors meant for estrogen, so it can elicit a response that the body did not call for. For example, BPA can cause cells to keep growing out of control, potentially leading to breast cancer. 

Many industries and companies have become aware of the harmful effects of BPA. In response to this relatively new knowledge, many companies have moved away from the use of BPA in their products. This may seem like a positive change in the best interest of consumer health, but this is unfortunately not the case. Instead, many companies have opted to use Bisphenol S (BPS), a chemical very similar to BPA that is also part of the bisphenol group. New research finds that BPS is actually more harmful in the body than BPA. Unlike BPA, BPS acts on cells that do not have an estrogen receptor, meaning it can act on more cells than BPA can. This means that a harmful chemical is still being used so that companies can label their products as being “BPA-Free”. 

The best way to prevent exposures to BPA and BPS is by avoiding products that are packaged in plastic or cans because they often have BPA-based linings. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic, which is usually indicated by the recycling symbol No. 7 and “PC”. The No. 7 denotes that the packaging is polycarbonate and likely contains BPA, BPS, both of them, or another bisphenol. If a product is labeled as “BPA-free” but still says No. 7, this means it is probably another bisphenol like BPS. Being a conscious consumer and knowing what to look for in product labels is vital to avoiding exposures to harmful EDCs like BPA and BPS. 


Segovia-Mendoza, M., de León, C. T. G., García-Becerra, R., Ambrosio, J., Nava-Castro, K. E., & Morales-Montor, J. (2020). The chemical environmental pollutants BPA and BPS induce alterations of the proteomic profile of different phenotypes of human breast cancer cells: A proposed interactome. Environmental Research191, 109960.

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