Synthetic Estrogens Wreak Havoc on Your Reproductive System

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April 15, 2008 | 64,432 views

Researchers are developing a clearer understanding of why the synthetic estrogens found in many widely-used plastics can cause damage to a developing fetus, fertility problems, and vaginal and breast cancers.

Past research has shown that exposure to the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) alters the expression of HOXA10, a gene necessary for uterine development, while increasing the risk of cancer and pregnancy complications. By studying the DNA of the offspring of 30 pregnant mice injected with DES, researchers found changes in certain regions of the HOXA10 gene that continued beyond the time of development and persisted into adulthood.

This indicates that exposure to DES and similar substances results in lasting genetic memory, known as "imprinting,” which is actually changing the structure of the HOXA10 gene.

Though DES is no longer on the market, pregnant women are frequently exposed to similar substances with estrogen-like properties, such as Bisphenol-A (BPA). Chemicals like DES (which is no longer on the market) and BPA (which is widely used), exhibit hormone-like properties and imitate the effects of naturally occurring estrogens.

In one study, researchers began to study BPA after normal mice began to display genetic abnormalities that are typically uncommon. The defects were linked to plastic cages and water bottles that had been cleaned with a harsh detergent, causing BPA to leak from the plastic. Even extremely low levels of the compound produced genetic abnormalities in the mice, and in humans BPA may be linked to:
This chemical is so widely used -- industry uses more than 6 billion pounds of BPA a year -- that a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 93 percent of the people they tested.

It’s used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, which are used to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes. BPA is also present in some dental sealants and tooth coatings.

Why are the Health Risks Still Being Debated?

In 2007, the National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction convened a 12-member panel to review the risks of BPA. Well, the panel expressed “some concern” that exposure to BPA in utero, and for infants and children, causes neural and behavioral effects.

Well, some concern is way too much, in my opinion. I personally avoid BPA as much as possible, and consider it an absolute necessity for children and pregnant women to stay away from this chemical.

This is because BPA leeches from plastic into your foods and beverages quite easily. And if those containers are old, scratched, worn down from harsh chemicals and dishwashers or heated in a microwave, they are likely leeching even higher levels of BPA than normal.

Fortunately, it seems many of you health-conscious parents out there are refusing to use BPA-containing baby products -- and are prompting some changes in the industry. According to this AP article, for instance, Babies “R” Us reported that their sales of glass baby bottles increased five times from a year ago, and one manufacturer of glass bottles said that sales increased by more than 100 percent between 2006 and 2007, and continue to climb in 2008.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of what can happen when you demand healthier products for your family -- if sales become impacted enough, manufacturers will respond by taking the suspect chemical out.

BPA is still widely used, though, in products that you may have in your home right now. The following tips will help you to not only reduce your exposure to BPA, but also to other dangerous plastics chemicals that are out there.

10 Tips to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA

1. Only use glass baby bottles and dishes for your baby (and yourself)

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 your, 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). If in doubt, remember this handy saying from The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy:

"With your food, use 4, 5, 1 and 2. All the rest aren't good for you."

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References