Many of the plastics you come across every day, including packaging materials to plastic forks, contain plasticizers, a substance that softens the plastic. Two very common plasticizers that are used in commercially available plastics are called bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS). According to a new study, exposure to small amounts of these chemicals can « seriously damage the brains of adult humans » over time.
It is important to note that the study, which was carried out by the University of Bayreuth, was carried out on fish. However, the researchers say it is “very likely” that similar effects related to these plasticizers will also occur in the human brain, underscoring another potential health consequence associated with society’s over-reliance on plastics.
The new study examined the effects of these two plasticizers on the ability of nerve cells to transmit signals to other cells. Although some of the health effects of BPA are already known, this new study also included BPS, an emollient that is considered less harmful in comparison.
Unfortunately, both types of plasticizers have been linked to impaired signal transmission between nerve cells in the brain, which, according to the researchers, highlighted the need to develop alternative plasticizers. The key to the problem is the « delicate balance » in brain cells that cause excitation in other cells and cells that inhibit other cells.
A disruption of this balance can lead to various disorders of the nervous system. The study’s lead author, Dr. Peter Machnik explains:
It is known that numerous disorders in the vertebrate nervous system are caused by the fact that excitation and inhibition signals are not or only insufficiently coordinated. It is all the more alarming that the plasticizers BPA and BPS significantly impair this coordination.
The damage was observed in goldfish, with the researchers finding that the impairment associated with these softeners did not occur immediately, but occurred over the course of a month when exposed to « small amounts » of either fabric softener. Machnik noted, « The results obtained from studies on fish brains justify the assessment that BPA and BPS can also seriously damage the adult brain. »
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