List of health concerns related to BPA grows longer

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The chemical is called Bisphenol A. Chances are you’ve never heard of it, yet you are being exposed BPA every day due to its use as a plastic hardener.

It also can be a cause of a host of human dysfunctions in adults as well as children, scientists are learning.

According to ongoing studies, it can be a cause of Alzheimers dementia and it also interfering with normal brain development in children, as well as creating behavioral problems and other neuro-developmental disorders.

BPA is found in a wide array of common plastic products, from baby bottles and sippy-cups to plastic water bottles and the linings of virtually all tin cans.

People can absorb BPA when it seeps from these products into the food or drinks they contain. If you suspect it must be a very rare chemical, think again.

Recent surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest 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.

Numerous studies, including one in the prestigious “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science,” also are weighing in on the dangers of BPA consumption

Writing for Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, senior scientist and policy analyst Urvashi Rangan reports that “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 remains undetermined.

Higher levels of BPA in 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.

Another disturbing suspicion noted in previous columns is now being confirmed: BPA is known to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body, which can cause changes in developing intrauterine fetuses and infants.

In yet another study, led by Joe Braun, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, findings suggests that 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 correlated that 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 be boosting levels of the hormone estradiol in female fetuses, disrupting the normal sexual differentiation of the brain, leading it to become more masculine. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has several publications on the subject. In animal studies, the female hormone estradiol has been shown to convert to testosterone in males, resulting in masculinization.

A short while ago Canada — with very little fanfare — declared BPA a toxic substance. Following are 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, 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, I recommend not using plastic bottles or “sippy-cups.” As 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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