You may have read or heard lately about Bisphenol-A (BPA) and its many disturbing side effects. It was developed in the 30's as a synthetic estrogen, but is used mostly today in polycarbonate plastic. It's found in sunglasses, CD's and the fillings in your teeth, and is used to coat the inside of tin cans and make plastic shatterproof.
Unfortunately, BPA can activate estrogen receptors that lead to the same effects as the body's own estrogens. Some hormone disrupting effects in studies on animals and human cancer cells have been shown to occur at levels as low as 2-5 parts per billion. These health problems include lowered sperm count and infertile sperm in men, and exposure during development has been proven to have carcinogenic effects and produce precursors of breast cancer. BPA has been shown to have developmental toxicity, carcinogenic effects, and possible neurotoxicity.
So what about all the plastic baby bottles made with BPA out there? The Environment California Research & Policy Center published a report in February that found that five of the most popular baby bottles brands (Avent, Dr. Brown's, Evenflo, Gerber and Playtex) leach enough of this developmental, neural and reproductive toxicant into the liquids that come into contact with them to cause harm in lab animals. Scientists have linked very low doses of BPA exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity and diabetes. In one recent study, a single, low dose of BPA administered to a newborn rat resulted in hyperactive behavior. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of over 95% of people they tested.
Since our book The Complete Organic Pregnancy was published we've seen public awareness of the dangers of BPA increase, but glass baby bottles are still not readily available. I use Evenflo's shatterproof glass bottles, and a company called Born Free has released a natural BPA-free alternative plastic bottle.
The study includes some other ways to limit your child's exposure to this toxic chemical:
At the store, parents should select baby bottles that are made from glass or a safer non-polycarbonate plastic. At home, parents should avoid washing plastic dishware with harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, which may allow chemicals to leach out of the plastic. For a useful tip sheet, parents should visit our toy safety page.
In June 2006 San Francisco banned the sale of baby bottles and other products for young children containing BPA, but the ban was never enforced, and in May 2007 the city repealed it.
BPA has been known to leach from the plastic lining of canned foods. There are no government safety standards limiting the amount of BPA in canned food. Manufacturers use 6 billion pounds of it a year.
The Environmental Working Group published a survey of BPA in U.S. canned foods in March and found BPA in over half of 97 cans of name-brand fruit, vegetables, soda, and other commonly eaten canned goods.
They also found:
Until they solve the BPA problems, I've been going without canned soup.
In bottled water news:
On Friday it was announced that PepsiCo Inc. will start spelling out the fact that its Aquafina brand of bottled water is made with tap water, a concession to the growing environmental and political opposition to the bottled water industry. According to Corporate Accountability International, a U.S. watchdog group, the world's No. 2 beverage company will include the words "Public Water Source" on Aquafina labels.
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