Many of the plastics you encounter daily, including everything from packaging materials to plastic forks, contain plasticizers, a substance that softens the plastic. Two very common plasticizers used in commercial plastics are called bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS). Exposure to small amounts of these chemicals over time may ‘seriously damage the brains of adult humans,’ according to a new study.
It’s important to note that the study, which comes from the University of Bayreuth, was conducted on fish. However, the researchers say that it is ‘very likely’ that similar effects related to these plasticizers also happen in human brains, underscoring another potential health consequence that comes with society’s over-dependence on plastics.
The new study looked into the effects of these two plasticizers on the ability for nerve cells to transmit signals to other cells. Though some of the health consequences of BPA are already known, this new study also involved BPS, a plasticizer that is regarded as less harmful in comparison.
Sadly, both varieties of plasticizers were linked to impaired signal transmission between brain nerve cells, highlighting the need to develop alternative plasticizers, according to the researchers. Key to the issue is the ‘delicate balance’ involved in brain cells that cause excitation in other cells and ones that inhibit other cells.
Disrupting this balance can lead to various nervous system disorders, with the study’s lead author Dr. Peter Machnik explaining:
It is well known that numerous disorders in the nervous system of vertebrates are triggered by the fact that excitatory signals and inhibitory signals are not or only inadequately coordinated. So, it is all the more alarming that the plasticisers BPA and BPS significantly impair precisely this coordination.
The damage was observed in goldfish, with the researchers noting that the impairment linked to these plasticizers wasn’t immediate, but rather appeared over the course of a month with exposure to ‘small amounts’ of either plastic softener. Machnik noted, “The findings obtained through studies on fish brains justify the assessment that BPA and BPS can also seriously damage the brains of adult humans.”