We aren't sure how Bisphenol A (BPA) (found in plastic food containers) affects human beings — especially developing fetuses and young children — and if concerning test results in animal subjects translate to people. Should BPA be banned from baby bottles, as it has been in other countries like Canada?   Unfortunately, our ability to detect chemicals in our bodies is running ahead of our ability to understand exactly how them may affect us.

An estimated 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However,  once we stop being exposed to the chemical, BPA levels can drop dramatically. We can rid ourselves of BPA fairly quickly, unlike other more long-lasting chemicals like lead.

That's the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. A team of researchers from the Silent Spring Institute, the Breast Cancer Fund and Vassar College took five families from the San Francisco Bay area and had them stop using canned foods and plastic food packaging for several days. The scientists found that BPA levels among the family members dropped by an average of over 60% — but once they went back to their normal diet, the BPA levels went back up as well. That's pretty strong evidence that restricting use of certain plastics and packaging can significantly reduce exposure to the chemical, and whatever harm it may do.

Here's how the study worked: the five families of four provided urine samples for two days while they ate their normal diets. That gave researchers a background level for BPA and some phthalates — plasticizing chemicals that have also been tagged as endocrine disruptors (

naturally occurring compounds or man-made substances that mimic or interfere with the function of hormones in the body). Next, the researchers gave each family three days' worth of freshly prepared organic meals and snacks, stored in glass and stainless steel containers. (One popular source of BPA is in the liner inside canned food.) The families gave  samples on the second and third days that were tested for BPA and phthalates. Lastly, the families returned to their normal diets for three days, and were tested twice again.

In addition to BPA, the researchers also tested for the phthalate DEHP — which is also found in food packaging — as well as DEP and several other chemicals that are not used often in packaging. That mix of chemicals was chosen to give the research team a better idea of the role that plastics and packaging might play in exposure to BPA. The fact that BPA levels among the families dropped when their diet changed — but levels of DEP, which is used in fragrances, didn't — underscores the importance of food packaging in exposing people to BPA.

Is this study significant?  Although this research was peer-reviewed, it was a small study and one that was carried out by environmental groups that have raised concerns about BPA and other potentially toxic chemicals in the past. But if you are worried enough about BPA and phthalates to want to cut down your exposure, avoid canned foods and use glass or stainless storage containers.  There are also more plastic  products available that are BPA-free, including baby bottles.

Industry has registered its skepticism of this study and the the American Chemistry Council has stated:
This study simply confirms these reassuring points: that consumers have minute exposures to BPA and DEHP from food sources, and that the substances do not stay in the body, but are quickly eliminated through natural means. Additionally, data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Canada have shown that typical consumer exposure to BPA and DEHP, from all sources, is up to 1,000 times lower than government-established safe exposure levels. “Consumers should feel confident that they can continue to eat healthy canned or packaged foods because materials intended for use in food contact are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

EDITOR'S NOTE:   This is an interesting article because it demonstrates how one study can be interpreted in several ways and why it is important to have large randomized controlled studies to get solid answers.     The "experiment" above sounds like it was well designed but the numbers are extremely small so questions about bias, misinterpretation and control are very possible.   The comment from the American Chemistry Council points out a common problem with epidemiology studies:  when does small exposure turn into unsafe levels of exposure?  This is one of the main reasons we cannot always prove cause and effect when we talk about environmental exposure.  Because this latter organization represents the chemical industry, they too can be biased.  The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program are finding new ways to study the impact of chemicals, especially related to their effect on our hormones, which should help get some solid answers.     BTW,  I've stopped microwaving in plastic.

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Comments

Thanks for the amazing content on your blog, I am very interested in this article. The trick is to produce these materials without using lead.

These kinds of stories and findings make me think that old-fashioned glass bottles or organic baby products are the way to go!

I think it has been known for a long time that plastics can be dangerous. I can't believe they actually decided to use them as food storage containers. The chemicals in the plastic leach out into the food or beverage. I have also read that using plastic containers in the microwave can increase the chemicals that are released from the plastic. I agree with Kristie, old fashioned glass bottles would be a better choice than plastic.

Feeding bottles needs to be checked for their chemical contents. Aside that it is not natural for the baby there are harmful contents on the plastic that harm babies. In the end it is still best to breastfeed a baby.

Technological progress is a test for the health side. In addition, health is guaranteed, there is no doubt that advances in technology also led to endangerment of public health side. Thank you for your article.

this is shocking though i find it very helpful specially to all mothers, this article should be an eye opening for us all. I am wondering if microwaveable plastic containers are safe too? Editors comment: Some plastic containers are safer than others, though it is always wiser to microwave in a glass, china or ceramic container. Plastics used for food storage usually have a number code on the bottom inside a triangle. The safest plastics have the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5. # 3 products have polyvinyl (PVC); #6 is found on styrofoam and should never be used to store food since they give off styrene. # 7 products have polycarbonate plastic that will release Bisphenol A. Plastic wrap that is sometimes used to cover microwave dishes may have PVC, but there is PVC-free saran plastic wrap. Plastics labeled #1PETE, #2HDPE, #4LDPE or #5PP have the lowest risk.

the sample size shown and discussed above is so small that it is hard to really believe the findings. Have you guys read of any other research on this BPA? this should be a more widely discussed topic as it is affecting baby's health. EDITORS' NOTE: There is a growing body of evidence about BPA. We'll be posting more.

This is realy shocking that our kids life are in danger because of these poor quality plastic material.

Gosh there is no end to the toxicity we pour into our bodies is there? **sigh

BPA is used as an ingredient in polycarbonate plastic products, such as infant and water bottles, to make them hard and translucent. It is also used in the liners of food cans. Because BPA has been known to disrupt the hormonal system, leading to behavioral and developmental problems and cancer in animals, health advocates have raised concern over the possibility that the chemical could leak from cans or plastic containers into people's food and water. Heat in particular appears to increase the rate at which the chemical leaches out. A number of prominent retailers in the U.S. and abroad are switching to BPA-free. So the question arises: What are these BPA-free materials, and who's making sure they're safe? Editor's Note: Good question....can we trust the manufacturer?

The same can also be said for arbitrary airport x-ray "security" screening. Supposedly, we're only getting a miniscule, "safe" amount of radiation. I've always been told that there is no such thing as a "safe" amount of radiation in x-ray school. How much is a "small amount" of BPA exactly? Many questions, little answers.

For me, if there is even a reasonable suspicion that BPA can be harmful - we should avoid it. I have many clients who come to me for BPA free Tupperware products - especially kids stuff, for just this reason. BPA is in many glass products too - so be careful if trying to avoid plastic all together. Even Pyrex uses BPA in the making of some of their products. BPA is also in things you'd never suspect, like receipts at many stores.

I would love to link our site to your site. Not only do they promote sustainability but they are healthy in the way they help to restructure the water for a healthier hydration process. Your site addressing women's health is crucial. I've enjoyed what I have read and think you would be great to link to for my constituency. Thank you MY

By using a specific type of glass bottles we can protect the babies from harmful affects and chemical substances carried out by the plastic bottles

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