NEWS: BPA alternatives, are they safe? | Breast Cancer UK

NEWS: BPA alternatives, are they safe?

Published 9 Jun 2017

Research co-funded by Breast Cancer UK and published today in the journal Toxicological Sciences, has found that compounds being used as alternatives to BPA in ‘BPA-Free’ products are potentially just as dangerous to our health.

Researchers found that six alternatives being used in ‘BPA-free’ products may have the same potential to cause adverse health effects in humans as BPA.  

BPA has recently been classified as a substance of very high concern under EU Regulations, due to fears that it can have an adverse effect on the human reproductive system.   BPA was banned in babies’ bottles in 2010 due to concerns about its potential impact on the developing mammary gland and it is being phased out of many other everyday products, such as plastic bottles, tin can linings and till receipts.  However, manufacturers are increasingly turning to bisphenol variants such as BPAF, BPB and BPZ to replace the controversial chemical. 

However, this new research has found that BPA variants are capable of binding to oestrogen receptors, triggering increased growth and division of breast cancer cells.   One of the hallmarks of up to two thirds of breast cancers is that cell proliferation is driven by such oestrogen receptor activation. Using molecular techniques, the research showed that breast cancer cells exposed to BPA variants display the hallmarks of endocrine disruption through oestrogen binding. Some variants, including BPAF, BPB and BPZ were more oestrogenic than BPA.

Whilst some manufacturers of BPA claim that it is safe to use because levels of human exposure are negligible, scientific evidence shows that even low level exposure to BPA may have an adverse effect on the development of breast tissue, which can lead to the development of breast cancer.  This latest research suggests that similar concerns may also be applicable to bisphenol variants.

As well as being linked to breast cancer, BPA may also be linked to a range of other conditions including obesity, heart disease and cardiovascular problems, infertility, diabetes and recurrent miscarriage.

Lynn Ladbrook Chief Executive of Breast Cancer UK explains further, ‘This research shows that the alternatives being used by plastics manufacturers are potentially no safer than BPA and in some cases may even have more of an oestrogenic effect.   

BPA has been linked to a range of health issues, including breast cancer and it seems that variants of this chemical are likely to have similar links.  Breast Cancer UK want to see more toxicology testing being carried out before making decisions on chemical substitutions.  Finding safer alternatives and protecting our health and the future health of our children must be the priority.’


For further information and a copy of the paper please contact:

Lynn Ladbrook, Chief Executive - 07786 393181

Louise Bowers, Communications Manager - 07930 854 527


Notes to Editors

  1. Breast Cancer UK works to save lives and reduce breast cancer rates by tackling the environmental and chemical causes of the disease.
  2. Breast Cancer UK awarded a grant of £16,550 to Dr Michael Antoniou, along with his research associate Dr Robin Mesnage, to research the endocrine disrupting properties of mixtures of herbicides and plasticisers 
  3. The lead author is Dr. Robin Mesnage, Research Associate, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Guy’s Hospital, London, and the corresponding author is Dr Michael Antoniou, Head: Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Guy's Hospital London, SE1 9RT
  4. Breast Cancer UK grants programme awards up to £45,000 to further research into the environmental and chemical causes and prevention of breast cancers.  No animal testing is permitted. For more information on how to apply please visit our grants section.

For more comment on this work see: BLOG: What if BPA was only the tip of the iceberg?

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