By Dr. Mercola
When a woman experiences a miscarriage or has a baby born with a birth defect like Down Syndrome, the cause is usually a mystery. Modern medicine simply does not have an explanation in most cases, although there are some clues coming in.
Environmental Chemicals Like BPA May Have Serious Reproductive Effects
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is one of the world's highest production-volume chemicals and as a result of its widespread use has been found in more than 90 percent of Americans tested. BPA is an endocrine disrupter, which means it mimics or interferes with your body's hormones and "disrupts" your endocrine system.
The glands of your endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ, and function of your body. It is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.
The strongest evidence showing that exposure to environmental chemicals like BPA can lead to disruption of endocrine function comes from bizarre changes seen in a number of wildlife species, such as intersex fish, frogs developing a variety of defects like multiple testes or ovaries, and hermaphrodite bears, just to name a few.
But evidence is also very strong showing these chemicals are influencing humans, too, and leading to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles and ovarian dysfunction, among numerous other health problems, like cancer and heart disease, as well.
In the latest study, researchers found disruptions to egg development after rhesus monkeys, which have human-like reproductive systems, were exposed to either single, daily doses of BPA or low-level continuous doses. The BPA appeared to damage chromosomes, which could lead to spontaneous miscarriage or birth defects.
In the group exposed continuously to BPA, there were not only problems with initial egg development, but also in the fetal eggs that were developing.1 The fetal eggs were not "packaged" properly in the follicles, which means they would have difficulty developing and maturing normally.
Washington State researcher Patricia Hunt noted:2
"The concern is exposure to this chemical that we're all exposed to could increase the risk of miscarriages and the risk of babies born with birth defects like Down Syndrome. The really stunning thing about the effect is we're dosing grandma, it's crossing the placenta and hitting her developing fetus, and if that fetus is a female, it's changing the likelihood that that female is going to ovulate normal eggs. It's a three-for-one hit."
Similar results have been revealed in humans, as women undergoing in vitro fertilization who had higher levels of BPA in their blood had 50 percent fewer fertilized eggs, according to one study, which suggests the chemical is compromising the quality of women's eggs and perhaps contributing significantly to fertility problems.3
You May be Impacted by Your Great-Grandmothers' Chemical Exposures
The statement that "no man is an island" is coming all the more true now that we're seeing regular evidence that our health is intricately tied to the lives of not only our parents but also our grandparents and great-grandparents …The chemical exposures that we're seeing today have the potential to impact your health for sure, but they are also likely changing future generations to come, even if they're not directly exposed to the chemical.
One recent study found that pregnant rats exposed to dioxin, a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, passed on diseases to their third-generation offspring (or great-grandchildren) via epigenetic transgenerational inheritance, cellular changes that influence the expression of various genes.4 The great-grandkids had high rates of kidney disease, ovarian disease and early-onset of puberty, while males had changes in sperm.
As Scientific American reported:5
"Scientists have long known that environmental exposures can cause genetic mutations. But now epigenetics experts are finding that some exposures seem capable of changing how genes are expressed, or turned on and off, without actually damaging the genes. These changes then can be inherited by future generations.
… 'The cause of the higher rates of disease in these [third generation] animals was not due to direct exposure, but rather through transmission of changes in the code that regulates gene expression,' said Abby Benninghoff, who specializes in epigenetics at Utah State University. She was not involved with the study."
BPA is Disturbingly Common
Thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) refusal to ban BPA from food packaging in the United States, the chemical will continue to experience steady growth in 2012, with an estimated 4.7 million tons set for production this year. This, in turn, will earn BPA manufacturers a handsome profit of $8 billion.6
So even though some forward-thinking manufacturers have removed BPA from their products, this chemical is still disturbingly common in food and drinks packaging, as well as in other places you probably wouldn't expect, like thermal printer receipts. So we are all lab rats, in a sense, being subjected to BPA exposures with unknown consequences for ourselves and future generations, whether we like it or not. This is why it's so important to boycott the common sources of BPA that you can control, such as:
- Canned foods and soda cans
- All BPA-containing plastics
- Certain tooth sealants
- Certain BPA-free plastics (which can contain similar endocrine-disrupting chemicals)
- Thermal printer receipts and paper currency (while you can't "boycott" these, seek to limit or avoid carrying receipts in your wallet or purse, as it appears the chemical is transferring onto other surfaces it touches. It would also be wise to wash your hands after handling receipts and currency, and avoid handling them particularly if you've just put lotion or have any other greasy substance on your hands, as this may increase your exposure)
In addition, one way to help protect yourself from the adverse effects of inevitable BPA exposure is by eating traditionally fermented foods, such as raw grass-fed organic kefir, organic fermented veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. These foods contain "friendly bacteria," some of which have the ability to break down BPA, as well as reduce your intestinal absorption of it.7
This is important for everyone, but if you're pregnant, nursing or planning to become pregnant, avoiding BPA as much as possible becomes all the more crucial.
Switching to BPA-Free Products May Not be Enough …
As a result of widespread consumer backlash, many companies have rolled out "BPA-free" plastic products, ranging from bottles and sippy cups to reusable water bottles, meant to appeal to those health-conscious consumers looking to avoid toxins.
Unfortunately, this may be just a ruse, as studies now show another bisphenol, bisphenol-S (BPS), is now showing up in human urine concentrations at levels similar to those of BPA.8 This suggests that many manufacturers are simply swapping one bisphenol for another. Research suggests BPS has similar hormone-mimicking characteristics as BPA, but it may be significantly less biodegradable, and more heat-stable and photo-resistant, which means it may cause even more health and environmental damage over time.
If you're interested in avoiding any number of chemical toxins leaching into your food and beverages, choose glass over plastic, especially when it comes to products that will come into contact with food or beverages, or those intended for pregnant women, infants and children. This applies to canned goods as well, which are a major source of BPA (and possibly other chemicals) exposure, so whenever you can, choose jarred goods over canned goods, or opt for fresh instead. Another good idea is to ditch plastic teething toys for your little ones and choose natural wood or fabric varieties instead.