Exposure to BPA impacts the development of turtles and humans

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COLUMBIA - A researcher who has been studying turtles says high exposure to a chemical found in mostly plastic items, including water bottles, can be linked to developmental delays in children. 

Cheryl Rosenfeld, an investigator with the Bond Life Sciences Center, found exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) can permanently program the brain of a specific turtle species.  

Rosenfeld said the study has a larger real world significance. 

"Essentially if the turtles and getting exposed to it through the water, so are we," she said. 

First, researchers studied how developmental exposure to BPA could affect both gonadal development and brain development in painted turtles. 

"This chemical is widely prevalent in many aquatic and terrestrial sources," Rosenfeld said. "Painted turtles and other aquatic animals are encountering it on a daily basis."

The research also assessed how the chemical affects the sex ratio of the population of turtles. 

"The male turtles were turning out to have female portions in their gonads essentially they were hermaphrodites," Rosenfeld said.

She said the team found that the male turtle behaviors were consistent with that of female turtles.

Male turtles that do not demonstrate male-specific behaviors ultimately are not able to effectively breed and that poses a major threat on an ecosystem. 

"Essentially we are skewing the population," Rosenfeld said. "We are minimizing the number of males that can be available for breeding." 

Subsequently, Rosenfeld found  a correlation between early exposure to BPA and behavioral problems such as attention deficient disorder, aggression and even autism. 

"The problem with BPA, this chemical is widely persistent in our environment," Rosenfeld said. "It does not bio-degrade." 

She said 15 billion pounds of BPA contaminate water every year. 

"The solution is not so easy, but one things we can start to do is start to minimize our production of BPA by going to alternatives," Rosenfeld said. 

She said BPA-free items such as BPS and BPF are misleading since they do contain traces of BPA.

Rosenfeld recommends consumers buy more glass items.