Controversial chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), which is used to make plastic packaging and metal food containers, has been linked to cancer, infertility, early-onset puberty, and a laundry list of health problems. The FDA has said there’s nothing to worry about — exposure to low levels of the chemical isn’t dangerous. Now peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE has published the latest research challenging that claim: Its new study compared the effects of high and low levels of BPA in 1,326 children in China and found that girls between the ages of 9 and 12 with high levels of BPA were twice as likely to be obese than girls with low levels. The researchers found no link between BPA and obesity in girls older than 12 and boys of all ages.
This doesn’t mean that people can jump to the conclusion that the chemical is a cause of obesity. There are a lot of problems with this particular study: Although the researchers did consider obesity risk factors like diet and family history, the sample size for the study was small and based on urine samples, which aren’t a great measure of BPA levels. “Don’t over-interpret the results,” Philip Gruppuso, Brown University pediatrics professor, wisely advises. “The major hazard may not be the plastic but the food the plastic is used to wrap up.”
The chemical would have to be extremely potent and powerful to have such a big impact at low levels. But any link to health problems, especially in children, is still alarming.