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Skip Navigation LinksPennsylvania Department of Health > My Health > Environmental Health > Environmental Fact Sheets > Fact Sheet Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A (BPA
What is bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A (C15H16O2)  more commonly known as BPA, is a chemical produced in large quantities used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
Are there commercial uses for this compound?
Plastics containing BPA are used in food and drink packages and also in many hard plastic food containers such as baby bottles and reusable cups. Resins containing BPA are used to coat metal products, including the lining of metal food and beverage cans, bottle tops and some water supply pipes.  Some dental sealants and tooth coatings also contain BPA.
Is BPA present in the environment?
BPA is not a naturally occurring compound. However, it may be present in the environment from manufacturing facilities due to processing and handling, or from the products directly.
BPA is rapidly broken down in the atmosphere. BPA in surface water is estimated to degrade over a period of three to four days and is not likely to be significantly removed through evaporation. The potential to accumulate in fish is low and it is not readily available to be taken up by plants. BPA moderately adsorbs to soils or sediments.
How are people exposed to BPA?
Human exposure to BPA occurs commonly. People are exposed to BPA through food or drink that has been in contact with items containing the chemical, e.g., canned foods such as vegetables, other foods stored in plastic containers or liquids in hard plastic bottles. Exposure to BPA may occur from stretch film used in food packaging that contains the substance. BPA in food and beverages and paper receipts account for the majority of daily human exposures.
 
Exposure to BPA may also occur from the use of medical equipment, including tubes, catheters, plastic bags, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, cash register receipts, and dental composites and sealants containing the substance.
 
Occupational exposure can occur through direct contact with BPA in the workplace. Environmental exposure to BPA though air, dust, and surface water is minimal.
What happens to BPA once it enters the body?
BPA is absorbed into the blood through the gut or skin and goes directly to the liver where it is extensively broken down. The remainder is almost all excreted in the urine within 24 hours. A 2008 study reported that almost 93 percent of individuals age six or older had detectable BPA levels in their urine. BPA urine levels were higher in children than adults. BPA is also present in breast milk.
How harmful is exposure to BPA?
In humans, BPA may interfere with the production or activity of hormones.
 
Human health effects from BPA at low environmental exposures are unknown. However, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has some concern for potential effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children and has minimal concern for effects on the breasts and an earlier age for puberty for females, in fetuses, infants and children.
 
In the workplace, exposure to BPA dust may irritate the eyes, make skin sensitive and cause dermatitis and eczema. Contact may burn the eyes, lips and skin. Inhaling BPA can irritate the nose and throat, and cause coughing and wheezing. Exposure can also cause headache, nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting.
 
Whenever possible choose glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for foods, and use infant formula bottles that are BPA-free. Also, look for toys that are labeled BPA-free.
Can exposure to BPA cause cancer?
It is not yet known if exposure to BPA causes cancer in humans.
Are some people at greater risk of harm from BPA than others?
Fetuses, infants and children may be at greater risk of harm.
Is there a medical test to show whether I’ve been exposed to BPA?
Twenty-four hour urine collection and analysis is an accurate and reliable measure of BPA exposure.
Has the federal government made recommendations to protect public health?
There are no federal standards or guidelines governing the safe use of BPA in food-contact materials and no regulatory limits for occupational exposure to BPA in the United States. In 2004, the American Industrial Hygiene Association proposed a workplace environmental exposure level of 5 mg/m3 for BPA.
What can I do to prevent exposure to BPA?
Do not microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Do not  put very hot water, infant formula or other liquids into BPA-containing bottles while preparing them for your child. Also, do not heat cans of infant formula on the stove or in boiling water. Eat fresh or frozen foods instead of canned foods.
 
Avoid plastic products that contain BPA, such as plastic bottles with the letters PC or with recycling codes of 7 or 3 and do not wash polycarbonate plastic containers in the dishwater with detergents.