Common chemical's potential for harm is alarming

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It is known as BPA, which is short for bisphenol A.

You may have never heard of it, yet you are being exposed to it every day.

It is a chemical that is used to harden plastics.

It can cause Alzheimer’s dementia and a host of other human dysfunctions, and it is found in all sorts of plastic products From plastic baby bottles and sippy-cups to plastic water bottles to the linings of virtually all tin cans.

People can absorb BPA when it seeps from plastic bottles or the lining of metal cans into the food or drinks they contain.

If you are suspecting that this must be a very rare chemical, think again.

Recent surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had suggested exposure is widespread, showing that 93 percent of Americans excrete some BPA in their urine. In other words, it is now considered to be ubiquitous.

Studies have been published in such prestigious sources as TIME Health and Family and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

An even more disturbing fact was pointed out by Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union. He has written “consumers should not be ingesting this substance while the science is (still) being figured out.”

In other words, we know it’s bad, but the full extent of the damage it is causing is still a undetermined.

Another disturbing suspicion that I have written about in previous columns is now being confirmed, that BPA is known to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body, which can cause changes in developing fetuses and infants. These changes may be manifested by confusing the sexuality of children as well as adults.

According to ongoing studies, it may cause dysfunctions including interfering with normal brain development in children, as well as creating behavioral problems and a host of other neurodevelopmental disorders.

In other studies, higher levels of BPA in people’s urine have been linked to behavioral problems as well as reproductive disorders, heart disease and obesity, which prompted the Food and Drug Administration to ban the compound from baby bottles in 2012. In the current research, scientists from Duke Medicine in Durham, N.C., tried to understand how BPA can harm health, and focused on its ability to interfere with developing nervous systems in both animals and humans.

In yet another study led by Joe Braun, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, the study suggests exposure to BPA, especially in developing fetuses, may be long-lasting. Among a group of 244 mothers and their 3-year-olds whose BPA levels were measured in their urine, moms who had higher BPA levels during pregnancy were more likely to have children who were aggressive, anxious and hyperactive and showed poor emotional control, compared with moms with lower levels of BPA.

By measuring the content in mothers urine, researchers were able to correlate for every 10-fold increase in the mothers’ gestational BPA concentrations, the children showed a 9- to 12-point increase in impulsivity and a lack of emotional control.

“The data suggest that at exposures humans are typically exposed to, there seems to be an effect of BPA on behavior,” says Braun.

The effect was more striking in girls than in boys, which hints that differences in the hormonal factors may regulate development of executive and behavioral activities of the brain.

Girls in the study were more than twice as likely as boys to show anxiety and depression if their mothers had been exposed to BPA. One explanation would be that BPA may boost levels of the hormone estradiol in female fetuses, disrupting the normal sexual differentiation of the brain, leading it to become more masculine.

In animal studies, the female hormone estradiol has been shown to convert to testosterone in males, resulting in masculinization.

A short while ago Canada declared BPA a toxic substance,

Here are some tips to minimize your exposure:

Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.

Don’t allow water to stand in plastic bottles for any prolonged length of time.

Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.

Reduce your use of canned foods.

When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.

Use only baby bottles that you are sure are BPA free.

Especially with babies, do not use plastic bottles or”sippy-cups” As we have reported before with other dangerous chemicals, the dangers with limited exposure are probably minimal. The real danger is from constant, frequent exposure.

Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes active practice for 41 years; investigative reporting for many years on stations KTRG and KPOI on Hawaii radio and exercise/fitness yoga TV broadcasts on channel KHVH, also in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a fourth; a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.

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