Exposure to plastics speeds onset of puberty in mice

Oct. 1999 Mice exposed to bisphenol A -- a compound originally made as a synthetic estrogen but now used in the making of plastics -- had an overall earlier onset of puberty and increased risk of obesity, researchers report in the October 21st issue of the journal Nature. The investigators note that bisphenol A can be found in baby bottles, toys, food storage containers, computers, and other household items. But more research is needed to determine if the compound has similar effects in humans.

Dr. Frederick vom Saal and colleagues from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, exposed fetal mice to bisphenol A at levels similar to that which humans are routinely exposed to. Exposure induced early puberty and resulted in a body weight that was 20% greater than in non-exposed mice. The effect was stronger in animals with higher levels of natural estrogen than in those with lower levels. Exposure did not appear to affect the mother.

``People sometimes get confused if 100% of the population doesn't exhibit the exact same symptoms to a chemical, but there are varying effects in the animal as well as the human population.... The whole idea of government regulation is to protect the most sensitive subpopulation, which our findings identify as having the highest levels of natural estrogen,'' vom Saal commented in a University of Missouri statement.

``We're not offering an answer concerning effects in humans with these findings; instead, the findings pose a question regarding human health. This study should serve as a guide for human research,'' vom Saal added.

SOURCE: Nature 1999;401:763-764.

DEHP in Plastic Medical Tubes:Boys' Fertility

FDA announcement, 9/01

Bisphenol A (BPA) Harms Mouse Eggs

4/03 Nature Science Update

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