PhotoManufacturers have been moving away from the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) as a plastic hardener in packaging and bottles, over health concerns.

Many have embraced bisphenol S (BPS) as a substitute. Now, a study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology suggests BPS might have some problems.

“Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism,” the study’s senior author, Ella Atlas of Health Canada, said in a statement.

She says the study is the first to suggest BPS exposure can promote the formation of human fat cells. That could be a problem because the products labeled “BPA Free” often contain BPS.

In their study, the researchers found that exposure to a little or a lot of BPS had the same result – creating the largest accumulation of lipids. Oddly, exposure to moderate amounts of BPS has less of an effect.

Small amounts are disruptive

The scientists say exposure to even very small amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals can disrupt hormones. That's because small changes in hormone levels are supposed to make adjustments in metabolism, respiration, heart rate, and other bodily functions.

The search for a BPA substitute gained traction after some 100 epidemiological studies linked BPA to health problems. Retailers like Walmart dropped plastic bottles and cups for children if they contained the chemical.

That led to a host of BPA-Free products, many of which contain BPS. From the start, researchers wondered if the similarities between the two chemicals might mean they could share potential health concerns.

“Since BPS is one of the replacement chemicals used in consumer products that are marketed as BPA-free, it is important to examine whether BPS acts as an endocrine-disrupting chemical,” Atlas said.

The Canadian study concludes that BPS and BPA have similar effects on fat cell formation, lipid accumulation, and expression of genes important for lipid metabolism. And it isn't the first to suggest the substitute for BPA might have problems.

Researchers at UCLA recently reported that BPS may be linked to early puberty and a rise in breast and prostate cancers.  

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