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About the unexpected return of bisphenols in our food

Abstract:

In this study, the levels of bisphenol A (BPA) and analogous compounds in muscle and liver of fish Dicentrarchus labrax (sea bass), Trachurus trachurus (horse mackerels) and Scomber colias (mackerels) from the North East Atlantic Ocean were determined and the risk of their consumption by humans was assessed. The potential relationship between bisphenol concentrations and microplastic (MP) contamination of fish was also investigated. Fish from all the species had BPA in the liver and muscle, and bisphenol B (BPB) and bisphenol E (BPE) in the muscle. The highest concentration of BPA in the liver (302 ng/g dry weight – dw) was found in S. colias and the lowest one (5 ng/g dw) in T. trachurus. In the muscle, the bisphenol with the highest concentration was BPE in S. colias (272 ng/g dw). Fish with microplastics had significantly higher concentrations of bisphenols than fish where no microplastics were found, suggesting a relation between MP and bisphenol contamination in fish. In all species, the concentration of bisphenols was correlated with higher MP intake. Regarding human food safety, the estimated daily intake (EDI), target hazard quotient (THQ) and hazard index (HI) of bisphenols were higher than those established by the European Food Safety Authority suggesting hazardous risk for human consumers. These findings highlight the need of more research on fish contamination by MP and associated chemicals and inherent human food safety risks.

The SeaCleaners’ View :

The controversy over bisphenols is not over.
Whether it is bisphenol A, B or E (BPA, BPB or BPE), they are all very present as additives in certain plastics. The best known is BPA used in polycarbonates (PC) because it is the source of the questioning on its toxicity. Indeed, PCs are widely used in everyday consumer products in contact with food or not when the object requires a certain mechanical resistance. They made up about 90% of plastic baby bottles before the regulation in Europe. BPA brings flexibility to the formulation of the PC which is naturally brittle. Studies began in the 2000s and have highlighted its endocrine activity in humans, even at very low doses. It has therefore been officially classified as an endocrine disruptor along with BPS. Other bisphenols remain strongly suspected of having the same effect.

Approximately 4 million tons of EPS are still produced in 2015.
They are still embedded in PCs but some applications, such as baby bottles, have now been banned in Europe and North America since 2010. However, it is also very present in the epoxy resins that coat the inside of cans. At the peak of the controversy, it was recommended not to store food in PC containers for long periods of time and especially not to heat them to avoid the release of BPA. Its use in high temperature sterilized cans leaves some questions unanswered, but let us consider that the legislator has the necessary objective technical data in his hands? 

Bisphenols are present in commonly eaten fish
This study presents the analysis of several bisphenols (BPA, BPB, BPE) in fish commonly consumed as human food. Indeed, the massive development of plastic pollution due to the misuse of objects (packaging, single-use, etc.) and poor waste management has an impact on coastal marine ecosystems. The fractionation of plastics that are dispersed in the environment produces large quantities of microplastics (MP) that are ingested by animals and thus enter the food chains. The impact of polymers (PE, PET, PS…) is still the subject of questioning, but the accumulation of additives is now demonstrated by their concentrations in the digestive systems and muscles of animals (heavy metals, organophosphates and bisphenols). When these animals are consumed, we are again in contact with these additives. 

The levels consumed exceed the toxicity thresholds set by European regulations.
In the specific example of this study, the regular consumption of these fish exposes consumers to bisphenol levels that are higher than the standards set by European regulations. Three toxicity indicators, the estimated daily intake (EDI), the target hazard quotient (THQ) and the hazard index (HI) are exceeded. They are concentrated in the liver, but also in the muscles, with differences depending on the fish. The lifespan of bisphenols is quite short in the environment when dissolved in water. They are not persistent organic pollutants. The presence in fish is correlated with the amount of MP in the digestive system, which is a good indication of the origin of this chemical pollution in the food chain.

A risk allegedly managed by the current regulations on food plastics but an unexpected turn of events.
Since the introduction of bisphenol regulations, human health risks appear to be managed with regard to food plastics. However, history is coming back to impact us with the old plastics that are still in nature, as they have a fairly long degradation time. The high concentrations of bisphenols in the old formulations are now being ingested by fish as microplastics and thus enter our food chain again with all the toxic impacts already studied in the past. A kind of “return to sender” reminding us that the current economic model is very imperfect. In spite of all the regulations, the precautionary principle has not been respected, as evidenced by the history of BPA initially synthesized for medical use as a hormone substitute in the 1930s, but later abandoned for a more active product

Source :

Bisphenol A and its analogs in muscle and liver of fish from the North East Atlantic Ocean in relation to microplastic contamination. Exposure and risk to human consumers (2020)
Barboza, Luís Gabriel A.; Cunha, Sara C.; Monteiro, Carolina; Fernandes, José O.; Guilhermino, Lúcia.
Journal of Hazardous Materials : 393, 122419. – DOI-Link : https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122419

Editor : Yannick Lerat / June 8, 2020 / SeaView@theseacleaners.org

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