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ARRA Investments in Health Impacts of Bisphenol A

Public Health Burden
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities in the manufacturing of plastics for mobile phone housings, household items and automobiles, as well as the coating of food cans, bottle tops and water supply pipes. Since BPA migrates from food and beverage containers into the things we consume, the most frequent human exposure to BPA is from diet. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of urine samples from people 6 years of age and older. The highest estimated daily intakes of BPA occur in infants and children.  Data from animal studies indicates young animals metabolize BPA less efficiently than adults, and thus have higher circulating concentrations of free BPA. Since data on the human health effects of BPA is limited, the NIH invested a substantial amount of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds in BPA research to define its effects on human health.

BPA and Diseases in Animal Models
Humans are more sensitive to exposure to many environmental chemicals, including BPA, during development, infancy and early childhood. Preliminary data indicates even the administration of low doses of BPA (doses in the range of what humans are expected to be exposed to) during development can result in effects that persist throughout life, causing disease and dysfunction many years or even decades later. Thus, researchers are studying the impact of BPA exposures that occur during pregnancy, known as developmental exposures, on diseases and dysfunctions that present themselves later in life. Since many diseases studied have lengthy latent periods, it is difficult to study them in humans, so scientists will use animals as models to:
  • Understand the role of developmental exposure to BPA on the development and progression of prostate cancer later in life.1,2,3
  • Define the role of developmental exposure to BPA on heart health. 4
  • Investigate the role of developmental exposure to BPA on obesity and metabolic syndrome.5
  • Study the role of developmental exposure to BPA on the development and progression of breast cancer later in life.6
BPA and Diseases Human Epidemiology Studies
There are a limited number of published studies on the effects of BPA exposure in humans.  To fill this important data gap and provide the research needed to understand human risk, a variety of epidemiology studies have been funded with ARRA dollars.  These studies will investigate how developmental exposures to BPA may lead to early childhood diseases and dysfunctions by:
  • Studying whether prenatal and early-life exposure to BPA is associated with increased lung wheeze, increased airway inflammation (as measured by fractional exhaled nitrous oxide, FeNO), and asthma.7
  • Examining how developmental exposure to BPA may affect the development of the immune system using mouse models of asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and infection with influenza A virus.8
  • Analyzing the effects of developmental exposure to BPA on brain development and cognitive skills, physical activity, and traditionally gender-specific play and social behaviors. Though a relatively new field of study in BPA exposure, the results, if shown to persist later in life, could affect risks for behavior and cognition problems and the early onset of puberty.9,10
Transgenerational Effects of BPA
Transgenerational effects are health effects of a pollutant or toxic exposure (like BPA) that are passed on from a parent to an offspring. Some data suggests exposure to certain environmental chemicals during development may cause disease and dysfunction not only in first generation offspring, but also through the germline to subsequent generations. If this is true for humans, then the chemicals a woman is exposed to during pregnancy could potentially cause disease and/or dysfunctions in her children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. Because of the importance of this research area, research funded through ARRA will examine the potential transgenerational health effects of BPA:
  • Researchers will examine the transgenerational impact of developmental exposure to BPA using animals as models whereby the transgenerational effects can be assessed by studying changes in animal coat color. Once researchers are able to demonstrate the transgenerational effect of BPA, they can better understand the mechanism of this unique effect.11

  1. 1RC2ES018758-01 -- Developmental exposure to low-dose Bisphenol A and human prostate cancer susceptibility-Prins, Gail (IL)
  2. 1RC2ES018764-01 -- Bisphenol A: Urine flow disorder and prostate pathology- Vom Saal, Fred (contact); Ricke, William (MO)
  3. 1RC2ES018789-01 -- Developmental reprogramming of prostate carcinogenesis by BPA- Walker, Cheryl (contact); Mancini, Michael (TX)
  4. 1RC2ES018765-01 -- Defining the impact of dietary bisphenol A on heart health in the C57Bl/6 mouse- Belcher, Scott (OH)
  5. 1RC2ES018781-01 -- Defining the role of BPA in promoting obesity and associated metabolic complications-Rubin, Beverly (contact); Greenberg, Andrew (MA)
  6. 1RC2ES018822-01 -- Does breast cancer start in the womb? BPA mammogenesis and neoplasia- Soto,Ana (MA)
  7. 1RC2ES018784-01 -- Early life bisphenol A, immune dysregulation and inner-city pediatric asthma- Whyatt, Robin (NY)
  8. 1RC2ES018750-01 -- Developmental bisphenol A and immune-mediated diseases- Lawrence, Paige (NY)
  9. 1RC2ES018736-01 -- Prenatal bisphenol A and sexually dimorphic neurodevelopment- Swan, Shanna (contact); Weiss, Bernard (NY)
  10. 1RC2ES018792-01 -- Bisphenol A and children’s growth and development- Harley, Kim (CA)
  11. 1RC1ES018195-01 -- Effects of in utero and transgenerational exposure of avy mice to bisphenol A- Rosenfeld, Cheryl (MO)

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