Score one small victory for consumer groups and ecosexuals everywhere: The United State’s ban on bisphenol-A or BPA is a small step towards ending our romance with toxins. That’s the good news. The downside is that this ruling by the Food and Drug Administrations has no direct bearing on consumers in the Middle East. A ban on BPA in bottles is insufficient in the long term, failing to address the many sources of this compound or the long list of other compounds tweaking our reproductive health.
BPA is a hormonally active chemical found in everything from cash register receipts to soup and beverage cans to plastic wrap and bottles. An ‘estrogen mimicker’, it has been linked to precocious puberty in females and the feminization of males including urogenital defects, such as penises that are malformed, among other things.
It is simply insufficient protection against the potential harm to all of us.
The Wall Street Journal reports: “BPA is found in hundreds of plastic items from water bottles to CDs to dental sealants. Some researchers say ingesting the chemical can interfere with development of the reproductive and nervous systems in babies and young children. They point to dozens of studies showing such an effect from BPA in rodents and other animals.
“But the FDA has repeatedly stated that those findings cannot be applied to humans. The federal government is currently spending $30 million on its own studies assessing the chemical’s health effects on humans.
“It is estimated that ‘about 90 percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their urine, mainly as a result of food and beverage packaging.
Despite the FDA’s caution regarding applying the results of animal studies to human outcomes, consumer groups have taken a stronger stance
For example, the Plastic Pollution Coalition states that “the alarm over the widespread use of BPA is entirely warranted. BPA has been linked with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, obesity, diabetes, infertility, erectile dysfunction, and learning and attention-related disorders.”
They reference a review of more than 800 studies published last month in the journal Endocrine Reviews [that] shows that even extremely small doses of BPA can be toxic.
“The study 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.”
BPA is just one worrisome compound in some plastics. According to an October 2011 list compiled by TEDx’s Endocrine Disruption Exchange, there are at least 870 known chemicals that can mimic hormones and therefore alter our bodies and our systems.
In a May 2012 article on harmful chemicals, Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times wrote that “nation’s safety system for endocrine disruptors is broken.”
Citing several studies and conclusions by scientists – linking things like congenital birth defects in boys to micro-penises in alligators – it’s the opinion of this author that regulatory agencies and governments around the world have essentially failed to protect their citizens from a decades long assault on our sexual and reproductive health.
Kristoff writes: “Scientists have long known the tiniest variations in hormone levels influence fetal development. For example, a female twin is very slightly masculinized if the other twin is a male, because she is exposed to some of his hormones. Studies have found that these female twins, on average, end up slightly more aggressive and sensation-seeking as adults but have lower rates of eating disorders.”
Why after almost 20 years since the term endocrine disrupters was coined are we still so exposed and at risk from these chemicals? Aside from a failure of adaquate protection, in part it may also be because mos don’t fully appreciate how nuanced and sensitive the endocrine system is.
It takes very little of a hormone, synthetic or not, to impact us. Microscopic levels of exposure (parts per billions), the timing of exposure (fetal exposure is often far riskier) or long-term damage (in some cases, it is children of those who were exposed who suffer the consequences) means we are all at risk.
What can you do besides avoid plastic bottles with or without BPA? The answer is simple: Avoid plastics all together.
Read More BPA News:
BPA Chemical Banned From Baby Bottles, Cups in the US
BPA Disrupts the Quality of Eggs Retrieved in IVF Treatment
BPA- What’s the Big Deal, Baby?
The author is a regular contributor to Greenprophet.com and blogs at www.tinamariebernard.com.
Image of hormones by Shutterstock