BPA – What’s the Big Deal, Baby?

BPA plastic bottles banThis guest post by Daniella Dimitrova Russo the co-founder and executive director of Plastic Pollution Coalition gives us reasons to still worry about buying BPA-free products.

What is the connection between obesity, reproductive and other endocrine-related conditions, heart disease, and cancer? Recent studies point conclusively towards one ubiquitous chemical that is used in everything from dental sealants, cash register receipts, and the lining of soup, beverage and vegetable cans, to baby bottles, the lining of formula cans, medical devices, and CDs and DVDs. Studies show that it can leach out when containers are heated or damaged.

This chemical is called bisphenol A, or BPA, and in the United States, more than 90 percent of all people have some of this toxic substance in their bodies. It almost certain that people around the world exposed to BPA will also have it in their bodies. A recent study in Egypt of BPA concentration in the bodies of girls in urban and rural areas found a strong correlation with canned food.

It is well known by now that bisphenol A is a hormonally active chemical. Simply put, it mimics the female sex hormone estrogen, causing all sorts of side effects from early puberty to the aforementioned conditions and illnesses.

For this reason, many countries around the world have declared a ban on BPA in infant products. Canada has classified it as a toxic substance. The European Union, China, and Canada have banned it from baby bottles. In 2010, Al Khaleej reported that United Arab Emirates will place a ban on BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles.

After coming under fire in recent years for their use of BPA, every major drink container baby bottle manufacturer in the US has phased out the use of the compound and now labels products as BPA-free. Earlier this year, after high levels of BPA were reported in soup can lining, Campbell’s pledged to phase out the use of the toxic chemical.

The concern is entirely warranted. Babies, particularly those fed formula from cans and from polycarbonate bottles, are at the greatest risk from BPA, as their undeveloped endocrine systems are highly sensitive to its effects.

As BPA has invaded almost every part of our lives, scientists have discovered linkages with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, obesity, diabetes, infertility, erectile dysfunction, and learning and attention-related disorders.

The real crux of the debate is who is right: the toxicologists or the endocrinologists.
For years, toxicologists have maintained that the small quantities of BPA cannot possibly affect human health.

But biologists such as Fred vom Saal and Theo Colborn have proved conclusively that very low doses may have a devastating effect on the endocrine system, which affects human behavior, metabolism, and development.

This view was supported by a new review of more than 800 studies published last month in the journal Endocrine Reviews. The study, conducted by twelve leading world scientists, including Colborn and vom Saal, repports that even extremely small doses of BPA can be toxic. The authors conclude that due to the effects of low doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals, “Fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.”
So what do you think? Does this still warrant debate?

Unfortunately, many still believe it does. Behind BPA is a multi-billion dollar industry, corporate lobbyists, and chemical giants such as Bayer, Dow, and Sunoco. As long as the outcome of BPA-related studies impacts their revenues, the arguments against banning the toxic chemical will continue.
What can you personally do to restrict BPA in your body?

The great news, reported by Breast Cancer Fund, is that your body will flush BPA within 24 – 48 hours, if you limit the exposure. You can take some easy steps right now.

1. Never offer your baby a drink in a plastic bottle.
2. Avoid all polycarbonate plastic drink containers, especially if they have the #7 in a triangle.
3. Avoid canned food and to the extent possible use fresh food.

If we can’t rely on regulators to protect us from toxic chemicals like BPA, it’s up to us to act. Sometimes the first small steps toward healthier living make the biggest impact.

Image of BPA in plastic from Shutterstock

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