Earlier this week, we showed you a bunch of ways to use less plastic in your life because, aside from the fact that it ends up in floating garbage patches in the ocean, plastic can also lead to excessive Bispehnol-A (BPA) exposure. But if you’re still wondering why everyone’s so nervous about this particular chemical, here’s at least one more reason to add to the list: A new study has found that the hormonal disrupter breaks down species barriers among fish–leading to interspecies mating. Yikes.
The study, which looks at a population of two species of fish native to North America, is one of the first to examine how BPA impacts a group of organisms, rather than a single person, fish, or lab mouse. The findings are pretty surprising. From a press release on the study:
BPA disrupts an individual’s endocrine system, which controls the release of hormones. This impacts behavior and appearance, which in turn can lead an individual to mistake a newly introduced species as a potential mate.
Yup. BPA caused so much hormonal confusion that the fish couldn’t decide who to mate with.
Which is not only a threat to biodiversity among fish (and any other animals that are exposed to BPA, thanks to careless humans), it also points to the larger problem with BPA–that it is an estrogen-mimicking chemical with huge potential risks to any organism’s sexual health, many of which we haven’t even discovered yet.
BPA, which the FDA still considers to be relatively safe despite mounting research to the contrary, is found in the linings of food cans, in plastic packaging, in water bottles, and in kids’ toys. But it’s also a known endocrine and hormonal disrupter which, in women, may lead to hormonal disorders and fertility problems–and in men, can lead to testicular problems and even smaller penis size, when the exposure occurs at a young age.
However, scientists are still wavering on exactly how much BPA a person has to be exposed to to see these problems–and whether or not it’s worth a fight with the large plastics lobbies that are making it difficult to fully ban the substance. Some states have managed to ban it in baby bottles or children’s sippy cups, and Campbell’s soup vowed to get it out of their cans, but for the most part, adults are on their own.
But here’s the scary part–the inability to distinguish one’s own species occurred after just 14 days of being kept in a tank where the water was contaminated with BPA. And yet, the FDA and other consumer protection agencies are still dragging their feet on deciding how much BPA is too much, and whether or not a wholesale ban is the right move. From this study, it seems like any BPA is too much.
Image: monticello via Shutterstock