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Even 'BPA-Free' Plastics Leach Endrocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

March 25, 2011

Plastic containers andlinings often leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.  Andsome of those chemicals, like the endocrine-disrupting bisphenol-A(BPA) and phthalates, may be harmful to your health.

Manufacturers have evenbegun advertising some products as "BPA-free." But arecent study found that most plastic products leachendocrine-disrupting chemicals even if they're labeled "BPA-free!"

The scientists found that 70 percent of common plastic productstested positive for estrogenic activity, and that number rose to 95percent when the products were subject to real-world conditions suchas dishwashing or microwaving.

Time Magazine reports:

"BPAis particularly worrisome simply because it is so common. Nearlyevery American has some amount of BPA in his or her body, in partbecause plastics are so ubiquitous."

Youwould think labeling a product "BPA-Free" would be some measureof protection against ingesting this toxic plastic by-product, but itturns out that tests on plastics using this label have not beenconducted under real-world conditions like running the plasticsthrough a dishwasher or heating them in a microwave.

Inthe "real-world", 95 percent of all plastic products in the studyabove tested positive for estrogenic activity, meaning they can stilldisrupt your hormones even if they carry a BPA-Free label. Even moredisconcerting is the finding that BPA-Free plastics in some casesleachedmoreBPA than the non-BPA free plastics.

Doesthis mean there is no safe plastic when it comes to storing orserving your food or drinks?

Ina word, yes, that's what it means.

Isuppose you could research exactly which fivepercentof commercial plastic products did not leach BPA in thestudy mentioned above,but my guess is you'll never be able to identify which productscontain this very specific variation of plastic, because commercialproducts are not required to list details like that on their labels.

Thisis another study in a long line of scientific studies that highlightthe fact that eating or drinking out of plastic containers willdeposit residual BPA into your body, potentially causing a whole hostof health problems that I will list in more detail below.

Whatis BPA?

BPAor Bisphenol A is a estrogenic plastic by-product used in themanufacture of polycarbonate plastics. It can leach into food ordrinks from the plastic containers holding them. Canada in September2010 declared BPA as a toxic substance, but to date no other countryhas followed suit, although BPA has been banned in baby bottles inEurope and the US (although they may still be soldin EU countries until June 2011).

BPAhas been linked to estrogen mimicking compounds since the 1930s andhas been widely reported in the media as being a suspected disruptorof your body's hormones. BPA's proponents argue that thesubstance does not accumulate in your body and therefore is notharmful, even though BPAhas been found in 98 percent of all people tested in the USand is commonly foundin the umbilical cords of babies in utero.

Thesuspected health hazards of BPA are many, listed in detail below.

BPAis Especially Harmful to Infants and Pregnant Women

Plastic chemicals areamong the most potentially damaging toxins for a fetus, so if you'repregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, now is the time to startlimiting your exposure.

This includes BPA, whichis an endocrine disruptor, meaning it mimics your body's naturalhormones and can trigger major changes in your body. Of 115 publishedanimal studies, 81 percent found significant effects from evenlow-level exposure to BPA.

BPA first caughtresearchers' attention after normal mice began to display uncommongenetic abnormalities. The defects were linked to plastic cages andwater bottles that had been cleaned with a harsh detergent, causingBPA to leach out of the plastic. After determining how much BPA themice had been exposed to, the researchers realized even an extremelysmall dose of 20 parts per billion daily, for just five to sevendays, was enough to produce effects.

Some of the greatestconcern surrounds early-lifeexposure to BPA,which can lead to chromosomal errors in your developing fetus,causing spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage. And exposure tojust 0.23 parts per billion of BPA is enough to disruptthe effect of estrogenin your baby's developing brain.

Again, if you are a womanof childbearing age or pregnant, you should be especially diligentabout avoiding this toxin, because just like it sounds, .23 parts perbillion is not very much BPA.

OtherBPA Health Risks

No one is immune to thehealth risks of BPA. Research has linked BPA to:

Structural damage to your brain
Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
Altered immune function
Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Heart disease
Liver damage

As it stands, BPA is oneof the world's highest production-volume chemicals and is widely usedin the production of:

Plastic water bottles Tooth sealants
Plastic gallon milk bottles Canned foods and soda cans (most have plastic lining in the cans)
Plastic microwavable plates, ovenware, and utensils Baby toys, bottles, pacifiers, and sippy cups

Avoidingthese items is an important step to limit your BPA exposure, and youcan find evenmore tips in this past article.

Phthlates:Another Plasticizer Chemical to Avoid

Phthalates, or"plasticizers," are a group of industrial chemicals used tomake plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible andresilient. They're also one of the most pervasive endocrinedisrupters so far discovered.

These chemicals haveincreasingly become associated with changesin the development of the male brainas well as with genital defects, metabolic abnormalities and reducedtestosterone in babies and adults.

Phthalates are found in,among other things:

Processed food packaging Lubricant and adhesives
Hoses Detergents
Raincoats Beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, deodorants, and fragrances
Shower curtains Toys
Vinyl flooring and wall coverings  

TheBottom Line about Plastics

Plasticsare everywhere in the modern world, and much of it is designed toeither go into your mouth or into your children's mouth, or serveas a vessel for things that go into your mouth (food and drinks). Asensible approach to limiting your exposure to BPA and phthlateswould be to not put things into your mouth that are made from or comeout of plastic.

Thisincludes limiting water you drink from plastic bottles, avoidingfoods that come from plastic containers and never microwaving foodsin plastic containers. Processed foods are notorious for comingpackaged in plastic, especially foods that go straight from thesupermarket shelf into the microwave. Another major source ofprocessed foods containing BPA are soups and canned goods, which Ialso advise you to avoid.

Bythe way, never microwaving your food willalso help your health in other ways as well.

Agood replacement for bottled water is makingyour own superior quality filtered water using a point of use reverseosmosis filter.The few dollars this filter will cost you will more than make up forits purchase price as you safely make hundreds of gallons of purewater from your home tap – water that is much safer than anyyou can buy in a plastic bottle,and certainly muchsafer than the water that usually flows out of your home tap!

Youcan also store your superior home-based point of use filtered waterin glass containers, which will not leach toxins into your water.For taking your water on the go, a good option is to tote it instainless steel containers, which are available at many retailoutlets. With a little work you can just say no to bottled water andall the BPA and phthlates associated with long-term bottled wateruse.

10Tips to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA

To be fair, you probablycan no longer completely eliminate your exposure to BPA (since it'slikely in our air, water, and food, too) but you can certainly reduceyour exposure dramatically.

The following tips willnot only reduce your exposure to BPA, but also to many of the otherdangerousplastics chemicalsas well.

Only use glass baby bottles and dishes for your baby
Give your baby natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones
Store your food and beverages in glass -- NOT plastic -- containers
IF you choose to use a microwave, don't microwave food in a plastic container
Stop buying and consuming canned foods and drinks
Avoid using plastic wrap (and never microwave anything covered in it)
Get rid of your plastic dishes and cups, and replace them with glass
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
Avoid using bottled water; filter your own using a reverse osmosis filter
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 doopt to use plastic containers for your food, be sure to avoidthose marked on the bottom with the recycling label No. 7,or the letters PC,as these varieties are most likely to contain BPA.

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