An estrogen-like compound widely used in plastic products is thought to be causing serious reproductive disorders, according to a statement by several dozen scientists, including four from federal health agencies.
The compound, bisphenol A (BPA), is one of the most-produced chemicals in the world, and almost everyone has traces of it -- or more -- in their bodies.
After reviewing about 700 studies, the scientists concluded that people are exposed to levels of BPA in excess of those that have harmed lab animals. Among the most vulnerable are infants and fetuses, who are still developing.
BPA is used to make hard plastic that’s used in numerous products including:
- Polycarbonate plastic baby bottles
- Large water-cooler containers and sports bottles
- Microwave-oven dishes
- Canned-food liners
- Some dental sealants for children
The statement appeared alongside five accompanying scientific reviews and a new study by the National Institutes of Health that found newborn animals exposed to BPA suffered from uterine damage. The damage could indicate that the chemical causes reproductive disorders in women ranging from fibroids to endometriosis to cancer.
While studies have yet to be conducted to directly examine BPA’s influence on humans, past animal studies have found low doses of the chemical to be associated with early-stage prostate and *** cancers and decreased sperm count.
No governmental agency worldwide has restricted the use of BPA, but a U.S. expert panel is meeting to discuss whether the chemical should be declared a human reproductive toxin, which could lead to regulatory action.
The chemical industry maintains that BPA is safe, and has called the scientists’ statement “alarmist and biased.”
Perhaps the biggest victims in all of this are fetuses and infants, who may be exposed to the chemical in utero or quite literally “fed” the chemical via plastic baby bottles and toys (which they often put in their mouths).
The problem with BPA is that it doesn’t stay in the plastic. It leeches into whatever food or beverage you put in a plastic container, canned good, or plastic baby bottle. And if you microwave the containers or bottles, you are likely increasing the amount of BPA that leaches into your food.
Another point worth noting is that BPA supposedly does not hang around in your body long after you’re exposed. Yet, this chemical is so pervasive that the scientists think people are simply being continually exposed to it from food, air, dust, and even just by touching items that contain BPA.
BPA mimics the sex hormone estradiol, which can trigger major changes in your body. The problems associated with even small amounts of BPA include:
- Structural damage to your brain
- Abnormal sexual behavior
- Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
- Early puberty and disrupted reproductive cycles
Several readers have commented that, even if BPA does eventually get restricted, there are countless other dangerous chemicals still out there. This is, sadly, very true. The EPA approves new chemicals to the tune of some 700 every year! Still, every step you take toward eliminating a toxin from the products you use is a good one.
Of course, I personally would not wait for a government restriction to begin reducing my exposure to this toxin. The evidence that has amassed thus far is enough to convince me.
To be fair, you probably can no longer completely eliminate your exposure to BPA (since it’s likely in our air, water, and food, too) but you can certainly reduce it. The following tips will not only reduce your exposure to BPA, but also to many of the other dangerous plastics chemicals as well.
10 Tips to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA
1. Only use glass baby bottles and dishes for your baby
2. Give your baby natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones
3. Store your food and beverages in glass -- NOT plastic -- containers
4. IF you choose to use a microwave, don’t microwave food in a plastic container
5. Stop buying and consuming canned foods and drinks
6. Avoid using plastic wrap (and never microwave anything covered in it)
7. Get rid of your plastic dishes and cups, and replace them with glass varieties
8. If you opt to use plastic kitchenware, at least get rid of the older, scratched-up varieties, avoid putting them in the dishwasher, and don’t wash them with harsh detergents, as these things can cause more chemicals to leach into your food
9. Avoid using bottled water; filter your own using a reverse osmosis filter instead
10. Before allowing a dental sealant to be applied to you, or your children’s, teeth, ask your dentist to verify that it does not contain BPA
In the event that you do opt to use plastic containers for your food, be sure to avoid those marked on the bottom with the recycling label No. 7, as these varieties may contain BPA.
Containers marked with the recycling labels No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 do not contain BPA (however they may contain other unsavory chemicals that you’re best off avoiding by using glass instead).