Supposedly Safer 'BPA-free' Plastic Caused Miscarriage in Mice

BHPF isn't an estrogen mime like BPA, but it led to smaller mice pups or even failed pregnancy.

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A lab mouse in New York. The mice in the Weizmann study did better when receiving the cancer drug at night.
Mice pregnancy outcomes were affected badly by BHPF, a chemical used to make BPA-free plastic.Credit: Bloomberg

A chemical used to replace the suspect hazard BPA in the manufacture of plastics may be no great improvement.

Plastic made with a hardening chemical called BPA is no longer used to make baby and soda bottles, sippy cups, and innumerable other products after suspicions arose that it affects our hormonal and nervous systems. But BHPF, a chemical used to make certain ‘BPA-free’ plastics, may be just as bad, at least for rodents: It caused adverse pregnancy outcomes in mice, a study in Nature Communications reports.

Mouse research cannot be applied directly to humans, and the study wasn't much bigger than its subjects. But mice are mammals and the inference is clear.

BHPF, fluorene-9-bisphenol, is  among other things used to manufacture plastic water bottles, and may leach into the water, the study indicates.

The problem with BPA, or bisphenol A, is that it mimics the effects of the female hormone estrogen, and was shown to leach into food or liquids contained in it. BHPF does not mimic estrogen, this is true.  It is anti-estrogenic, meaning that it blocks the effects of estrogen.

Unfortunately, tests in vitro (on cells in petri dishes) and on ten live lady mice resulted in dismaying pregnancy outcomes, report Jianying Hu and colleagues of Peking University: the chemical was associated with low uterine weight of the murine embryos, low weight of the pups that were born, and in some cases, miscarriage.

The scientists did test the blood of Chinese students who habitually drink water from plastic bottles and report detecting traces of BHPF in 7% of them. What the chemical  is doing to their biochemistry remains to be seen.

In short, say the Chinese, BHPF may not be safe as a replacement for BPA in plastic manufacture and more research is needed on how it affects people, and at what concentrations.