WASHINGTON — A new study shows that newborn babies may have less risk from bisphenol A exposure than originally thought.
According to a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers, released April 23 in The Journal of Pediatrics, infants have the ability to metabolize BPA and clear their systems just days after their birth.
The study also suggests that efforts to protect infants from BPA exposure by banning it from baby bottles and sippy cups may not actually be protecting them from it, since the majority of newborns studied still had the chemical in their systems — and researchers are not clear how it got there.
“Even though we've removed BPA from bottles, this work shows infants are still exposed to it,” said study leader Rebecca Massa Nachman, a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins. “But the good news is that our study also shows healthy newborns are better able to handle that exposure than we thought.”
For the study, Nachman and the team collected urine samples from 44 full-term babies, once between three and six days of age and again between seven and 27 days of age, in search of both free BPA and BPA glucuronide. Free BPA is the chemical as it exists in consumer products such as polycarbonate, can linings and epoxy resins; BPA glucuronide is what remains after free BPA is metabolized by the body and is biologically inert and harmless.
The researchers found no free BPA in the urine samples, while more than 70 percent of the samples contained BPA glucuronide. According to a news release accompanying the study, researchers still don't know how the babies were exposed to BPA. They found no difference between BPA glucuronide levels in infants who were formula-fed and those who were breastfed. Of the 44 healthy newborns studied between December 2012 and August 2013, 51 percent were fed formula exclusively, 28 percent were only fed breast milk and 21 percent consumed a combination of the two.
Studies have shown that powdered baby formula contains no BPA, while breast milk does.
This is the first BPA study involving infants, though the assumption has been that infants would be particularly vulnerable to BPA exposure because their immature livers would have a hard time processing it. While the European Food Safety Authority and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have repeatedly concluded that BPA is safe at its current levels in our foods, mounting controversy and consumer pressure led the FDA to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups in 2012.