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BPA Safer Than Contraceptives In Rat Study

The plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA) may not be so bad after all, according to results from a new animal study funded by the federal government.

Plastic bottles
David McNew/Getty Images

Some earlier research in rodents suggested BPA, which is found in polycarbonate plastics, could act like the hormone estrogen. Those studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of BPA could cause abnormal sexual development.

The latest work, published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, reached a very different conclusion.

Researchers fed pregnant rats small amounts of either BPA or an oral contraceptive and then studied their female offspring.

Female rats born to mothers who ingested the oral contraceptive had genital malformations, reduced fertility, and exhibited some male-like behaviors.

But the scientists found no such effects from BPA, even when the exposure was 4,000 times greater than what most people experience.

Previous studies that found little effect from BPA have been criticized because they were funded by industry. This study, though, was funded and conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The BPA issue remains far from settled.

Later this year, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue a new report on the safety of BPA. And the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has announced that it will spend about $14 million to study the chemical.

Check out our history of plastics timeline for an evolutionary look at this revolutionary product.

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