News / USA

Common Chemical May Damage Teeth

Plastic Bottles are a major source of pollution. (Photo: Groundwork Anacostia River DC)
Plastic Bottles are a major source of pollution. (Photo: Groundwork Anacostia River DC)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A chemical compound that’s been linked to a number of health problems in animal studies may also damage tooth enamel in humans. BPA is found in many resins and plastics that people use everyday, such as water and baby bottles and food containers.


BPA, or Bisphenol A, can leach from the plastic and into food, water or snacks – and from there into us. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control survey in 2003/2004 found detectable levels of the chemical in 93 percent of more than 2,500 urine samples tested. It can also contaminate the environment, with countless plastic bottles littering many landscapes and waterways.

The NIH, the National Institutes of Health, says, “Animal studies indicate BPA may cause adverse effects, such as obesity, behavioral changes, diabetes, early onset puberty, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, reproductive disorders and development of prostate, breast and uterine cancer.”

It adds there is “reason for concern, especially for parents, because some animal studies report effects in fetuses and newborns exposed to BPA.” There’s ongoing research on whether BPA does indeed affect people the way it can animals.

French researcher Sylvie Babajko is the lead author of an article on BPA appearing in the American Journal of Pathology. She said that BPA is an endocrine disruptor.

“An endocrine disruptor is a substance that disturbs the endocrine system. That means hormones in humans, as well as in progeny.”

The endocrine system is a series of glands, such as the thyroid pituitary and adrenal, which release hormones affecting sexual development, growth and metabolism. And these hormones go everywhere in the body. Some chemicals can make their levels go up and down.

Babajko and fellow researchers are now trying to confirm that BPA can damage tooth enamel. She said they were notified about the possible link by others studying the effects of endocrine disruptors on lab animals’ reproductive systems.

“They found that the rats exposed to low doses of endocrine disruptors presented white spots on incisors. They called us and we studied these white spots and found that there was an enamel hypomineralization due to endocrine disruptors exposure,” she said.

In other words, BPA, circulating in the body, can adversely affect cells that produce tooth enamel, making it fragile or brittle. The question is: Are those white marks now showing up on human teeth as well?

“It is probably a problem,” she said, “because things and food contain BPA and we are probably all exposed to BPA. And it has been shown, at least with experiments on animals, that BPA can cause a lot of defects and teeth are one additional target of BPA.”

Analysis of the rats’ teeth show similar characteristics found in about 18 percent of children between the ages six and eight. These kids may have teeth that are extra sensitive to pain or more liable to get cavities. It’s believed humans are most sensitive to BPA in the first years of life. Further study is needed, but those white streaks may be an indication of early exposure to the chemical.

Since BPA can disrupt estrogen levels in animals, there’s concern that could affect men’s reproductive health. Men do produce estrogen, but usually in much lower levels than women. However, Babajko said that’s not been confirmed and is difficult to prove.

“It is possible, but not demonstrated in humans, of course, because we are all subjected to many endocrine disruptors. And it is difficult to be sure that BPA is the only one that is responsible for the reproductive defects. It is difficult to know precisely if BPA is the only one or if it is acting in combination with other molecules,” she said.

Concerns about BPA have led to the production of BPA-free plastic products. Europe banned baby bottles containing the chemical in January 2011. The U.S. took similar action in July of last year. While the Food and Drug Administration began voicing concerns about BPA in 2010, it has not officially reversed its 2008 decision declaring BPA safe.

France intends to extend the BPA ban to all food containers in July 2015.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs