BPA is not only found in sports bras, but also in other sportswear

  • The Center for Environmental Health found that sports bras sold by many major sports brands contained BPA well above safe levels.
  • While research doesn’t say exactly how much you absorb from those clothes, staying in the gear for hours when you’re sweaty could increase your exposure risk.

Although bisphenol A (BPA) has been used in the manufacture of some plastics since the 1950s, it gained a lot of attention a few years ago when research showed that BPA can leak into food and beverages from containers made with the chemical. This led to greater efforts to remove BPA from the manufacturing process for items like reusable water bottles.

Now, the Centers for Environmental Health (CEH) monitoring group reports that it’s not just food and drink containers that are a concern — some athletic apparel could also pose an exposure risk.

Previously, CEH conducted tests on children’s socks based on research that suggested BPAs might be present in these products, particularly those made of polyester, spandex, or both, according to Jimena Díaz Leiva, Ph.D., Science director of the organization. That effort, conducted in 2019, resulted in communications to more than 100 sock manufacturers, she said runner world, resulting in some significant production changes. This followed similar, successful efforts by CEH to remove lead from children’s toys and candy, Leiva said.

Considering the nature of the materials used in socks, the group decided to extend their testing to sportswear, starting with sports bras and shirts. The group found that sports bras sold by Athleta, Victoria’s Secret, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, Nike, FILA and All in Motion contained BPA well above the limit set by California’s Proposition 65 law.

Athletic jerseys from Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance, Reebok, The North Face and Brooks also showed high standards. CEH has sent legal notices to all of these companies, who have 60 days to work with the organization to clarify manufacturing practices before filing a complaint in California state court.

Concerns about possible BPA effects focus on how the compound can accumulate in tissues and organs and also affect hormone regulation, according to the study published in 2020 International Journal of Molecular Sciences. These researchers added that BPA may also contribute to the risk of cardiovascular problems and cancer. Children in particular can be more affected. For example, a study published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyfound that children with more BPA in their urine tended to have more asthma symptoms than children without BPA involvement.

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Given the results of the tests on sports bras and shirts, Leiva said that CEH’s next steps will likely be to test other types of sportswear that contain polyester and spandex – a very popular combination for sportswear – such as running shorts, yoga -Leggings and sweat-wicking socks.

Although the use of BPA is widespread in the sportswear tested, Leiva added that using polyester and spandex in combination does not automatically lead to BPA. Although she couldn’t name specific brands due to ongoing legislation, she said there are several companies that offer sports bras and shirts without BPAs, meaning the chemical can be taken out of the process without compromising product quality.

“It’s not clear why BPAs should be present in these garments, given that not all athletic apparel tested have them,” Leiva said. “When we started testing we had no idea it would be so widely available and now we’re wondering what else contains BPAs. Unfortunately, the effects are more nefarious than a superficial reaction like a rash. It enters the body through the skin. And if you sweat, that can make absorption more likely.”

An important note: CEH tested BPA levels, but not how much you would be ingesting.

But sweat opens pores more, so absorption is more likely, according to Loren Wold, Ph.D., associate dean of biological health research at Ohio State University. His work has often focused on environmental toxins and triggers, and although he didn’t take the CEH testing, he said The world of the runner that the results are worrying.

“My first reaction was that it’s ironic that these health and wellness focused companies didn’t consider the composition of their products,” he said. “However, BPAs are present in so many products – even on receipts – that it is not surprising that they are found in every product that contains some form of plastic, and that includes clothing.”

The problem, Wold said, is that it’s unknown how much is absorbed through exposure to clothing, particularly over time. For example, wearing a sports bra for an hour-long run can provide minimal exposure, but many women wear these types of bras all day, which Wold says could be problematic.

“The longer you wear these clothes, the higher your risk of exposure becomes, just like with any environmental toxin,” he said. “It would be good to remove BPA from these products, but until then it may be best to exercise caution and not wear these clothes all day.”

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