New research adds to the weight of known risks from BPA, the controversial compound used in many plastic food and drink containers.

BPA is banned or restricted in many parts of the world, but allowed in Australia.

An international research team involving experts from Australian universities have discovered a new pathway for bisphenol A (BPA) to spread through the body via a protein known as ERRy (oestrogen-related receptor), which plays an important role in metabolism.

The involvement of ERRy adds to the possibility that BPA could be a cause of obesity and diabetes.

“We know that there are links between BPA exposure and diabetes and obesity but we do not know how it works. With what we have discovered about this new receptor we may well have found the missing link,” said Dr Yann Gibert, a member of the global team and researcher with Deakin University’s Metabolic Research Unit.

“Before now it was believed that BPA only affected oestrogen receptors and therefore only had an impact on this hormone function. Now that we have found this new receptor we can expand the targets of further research to developmental effects and metabolism.”

“It is time for Australia to re-evaluate the use of BPA and follow the lead of Europe, the US and Canada where the product is banned,” Dr Gibert said.

BPA is commonly used in plastic products such as baby bottles and food and drink containers.

It leaks from the container and into the food or drink, particularly when heated.

Current guidelines say it is safe to ingest up to 50 micrograms of BPA per day. However the science tells a different story and Dr Gibert says that these guidelines need to be revisited.

“As the current guidelines are based on the activation of estrogen receptors, we need to rethink the tolerable daily intake as BPA will induce effects at a lower dose than currently acknowledged. In Europe this is already happening with the intake soon to be dropped to 5 micrograms per kilo per day,” he said.

In previous studies, evidence of the health risks associated with BPA have been found to include breast cancer, reproductive disorders, brain function and inner ear development.

Results of this study have strengthened Dr Gibert’s resolve to reveal the true health impacts of bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenol derivatives, BPS and BPAF.

“While BPA is banned in many parts of the world and in Australia there has been a voluntary move away from using BPA in baby bottles, the plastics industry has started using other bisphenol compounds,” he explained.

“No one has looked at the health impacts of these other bisphenols, which could be as dangerous as BPA. This is why we are including them in our research.”

The latest study has been published by the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.