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Environ Health Perspect. 2003 July; 111(9): 1180–1187.
PMCID: PMC1241572
Research Article

Bisphenol A is released from used polycarbonate animal cages into water at room temperature.

Abstract

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a monomer with estrogenic activity that is used in the production of food packaging, dental sealants, polycarbonate plastic, and many other products. The monomer has previously been reported to hydrolyze and leach from these products under high heat and alkaline conditions, and the amount of leaching increases as a function of use. We examined whether new and used polycarbonate animal cages passively release bioactive levels of BPA into water at room temperature and neutral pH. Purified water was incubated at room temperature in new polycarbonate and polysulfone cages and used (discolored) polycarbonate cages, as well as control (glass and used polypropylene) containers. The resulting water samples were characterized with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and tested for estrogenic activity using an MCF-7 human breast cancer cell proliferation assay. Significant estrogenic activity, identifiable as BPA by GC/MS (up to 310 micro g/L), was released from used polycarbonate animal cages. Detectable levels of BPA were released from new polycarbonate cages (up to 0.3 micro g/L) as well as new polysulfone cages (1.5 micro g/L), whereas no BPA was detected in water incubated in glass and used polypropylene cages. Finally, BPA exposure as a result of being housed in used polycarbonate cages produced a 16% increase in uterine weight in prepubertal female mice relative to females housed in used polypropylene cages, although the difference was not statistically significant. Our findings suggest that laboratory animals maintained in polycarbonate and polysulfone cages are exposed to BPA via leaching, with exposure reaching the highest levels in old cages.

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