NIEHS Commissioning Study to Address Chemical Found in Polycarbonate Plastics and Epoxy Resins and Its Effects on Humans
November 2, 2009

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) announced last week that, as part of the funds it received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it is commissioning several researchers to study the health effects of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) on humans. The chemical is found mainly in polycarbonate plastics, sometimes used in sidelites, and epoxy resins, according to NIEHS.

"We know that many people are concerned about bisphenol A and we want to support the best science we can to provide the answers," says Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency program for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Bringing the key BPA researchers together at the onset of new funding will maximize the impact of our expanded research effort."

In 2008, NTP and NIEHS concluded that there is evidence from animal studies that BPA may be causing adverse effects, according to NIEHS, but notes that it is uncertain whether the changes seen in the animal studies would result in human health problems.

According to NIEHS, animal studies have shown that there is some evidence linking BPA exposure with infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, early onset puberty, prostate and mammary gland cancer and diabetes. For the newly funded research, two-year animal and human studies will focus on either developmental exposure or adult chronic exposures to low doses of BPA. Researchers will be looking at a number of health effects including behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, development of prostate, breast and uterine cancer, asthma, cardiovascular diseases and transgenerational or epigenetic effects.

The use of polycarbonates in sidelites has grown in recent years, particularly in high-end vehicles (CLICK HERE for an in-depth look at polycarbonate sidelites from the May/June 2008 issue of AGRR magazine.). Experts cite one key benefit as the material's light weight, which provides fuel efficiency.

"Without the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we would not have been able to expand on this research that is of such concern to so many people," adds Birnbaum. "Through this effort we will be able to provide a better perspective of the potential threat that exposure to bisphenol A poses to public health."

The researchers first met on October 6 at the NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The NIEHS received $14 million as part of the ARRA to study BPA; its parent agency, the National Institute of Health, received a total of $5 billion from the Obama administration.

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