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Your Environment. Your Health.

Bisphenol A (BPA): Expanding Research to Impact Human Health

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)

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 "We know that many people are concerned about bisphenol A and we want to support the best science we can to provide the answers. Without the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we would not have been able to expand on this research, which is of such concern to so many people." 
— Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program (NTP)

What is Bisphenol A?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a controversial plastics ingredient (chemical) used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is found in items such as: plastic bottles, food storage containers, compact discs, and water supply pipes.

Why are people concerned about BPA?

  • People, including children, are exposed to BPA when it leaches from the coatings of canned foods and from plastic products, with the highest estimated daily intakes of BPA occurring in infants and children.
  •  93% of urine samples from people 6 years of age and older have detectable levels of BPA (2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey)
  • Evidence from animal studies indicates BPA may cause adverse effects such as obesity, behavioral changes, diabetes, early onset puberty, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, reproductive disorders, development of prostate, breast and uterine cancer, and transgenerational or epigenetic effects.
  • Researchers remain uncertain about human health problems from BPA exposure

How is the Recovery Act (ARRA) advancing BPA research?

Because BPA is a widely used chemical with potential adverse human health effects, the scientific community and NIEHS have identified BPA as a high-priority research area. Recovery Act funds will support projects addressing many of the research gaps identified by expert scientific panels, and provide a better understanding of how this chemical may impact human health.


Over the next two years, NIEHS will invest approximately $14 million in Recovery Act funds on BPA-related research. This research will build upon existing NIEHS funded projects and in-house research, as well as NTP projects. Collectively, the results of these new ARRA funded studies and ongoing studies should begin to chip away at uncertainties and provide a better understanding of the potential risks that exposure to bisphenol A poses to public health.

Recovery Act Spotlight

Researchers investigating the possible link between BPA and Human Disease

ResearcherResearch Description
Scott M. Belcher, Ph.D.
University of Cincinnati
Defining the Impact of Dietary Bisphenol A on Heart Health
Dr. Belcher is studying the gender-specific impacts that developmental exposure to bisphenol A has on cardiac function later in life.
Kim Harley, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkely
Success Story
Bisphenol A and Children's Growth & Development
Dr. Harley is examining the association between fetal and childhood exposure to bisphenol A and child growth and development, in particular thyroid function, cognition, behavior, and metabolism.
Page B. Lawrence, Ph.D.
University of Rochester, N.Y.,
Departments of Envir. Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology
Success Story
Prenatal Bisphenol A and Sexually Dimorphic Neurodevelopment
Dr. Lawrence and her team is testing the hypothesis that exposure to bisphenol A during immune system development (during early life) enhances susceptibility to immune-mediated diseases later in life.
Gail Prins, Ph.D.
University of Illinoise, Chicago
Developmental Exposure to Low-dose Bisphenol A and Human Prostate Cancer Susceptibility
Dr. Prins to determine whether genes epigenetically modified by early life exposure to estrogen compounds play an active role in prostate gland tumor formation later in life.
Beverly Rubin, Ph.D.
Tufts University, Boston
Defining the role of BPA in promoting obesity and associated metabolic complications
Dr. Rubin is studying the relationship between obesity and exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA).
Ana Soto, M.D.
Tufts University, Boston
Does breast cancer start in the womb? BPA, mammogenesis and neoplasia
Dr. Soto and her research team is studying how BPA affects the developing reproductive system causing genital malformations and hormone-related cancers, to aid in changing public policy on endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D.
University of Rochester, N.Y.
Prenatal Bisphenol A and Sexually Dimorphic Neurodevelopment
Dr. Swan's research is studying how fetal exposure to bisphenol A can alter gender-specific parts of the brain during prenatal development that effect brain development and behavior.
Frederick Vom Saal, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkley
Bisphenol A: Urine flow disorder and prostate pathology
Dr. Vom Saal is studying how bisphenol A may contribute to prostate disease by increasing the body burden of estrogen during aging.
Cheryl L. Walker, Ph.D.
University of Texas, Houston
Developmental Reprogramming of Prostate Carcinogenesis by BPA
Dr. Walker is investigating whether early life exposure to environmentally relevant low doses of bisphenol A may cause epigenetic reprogramming, increasing susceptibility to prostate cancer later in life
Robin Marjorie Whyatt, Dr.P.H.
Columbia University, N.Y.
Early-life bisphenol A, immune dysregulation, and inner-city pediatric asthma
Dr. Whyatt is studying the relationship between early childhood exposure to phthalates (flame retardants) and the development of asthma, airway inflammation and diminished lung function.

Learn more about what NIEHS is doing in BPA research

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