Hardly a week goes by that there isn't something about BPA in the news — new information about potential for exposure, health effects, legislation to ban it, or ways to avoid it. And it looks like we may soon have another chemical to keep an eye on: A chemical that may be even more damaging to human health than BPA. A chemical that has been named BPA’s fluorinated twin — on steroids.
According to a new study from Japan, the chemical in question — BPAF, or bisphenol-AF — may be even more potent than BPA in altering the effects of steroid hormones such as estrogens in the body. The chemical is an ingredient in many plastics, electronic devices, optical fibers and more. And it's found in places that I never thought to look for when it comes to plastics ... like the lining of your dishwasher.
According to Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a molecular endocrinologist at the University of Houston, the unusual way that BPAF blocks some estrogen actions and fosters others “could make this a vicious compound, a very toxic compound.”
The last letter in bisphenol AF’s name (the F) denotes the substitution of fluorine atoms for hydrogens (check out the diagram above). This is why the compound is sometimes referred to as hexafluoro-BPA. Both BPA and BPAF act on estrogen receptors, mimicking estrogen in the body, but BPAF may also be able to block the body's own estrogen, further exacerbating its effects.
Little is known about the quantity of BPAF produced each year or likely human exposures, but a report by the National Toxicology Program noted that the contaminant has been detected in women’s fat — a sign that it could be passed along to babies during breastfeeding.