Studies have been pointing a finger at BPA as an endocrine disruptor for many years now, long enough that public groups have mobilized to get the plastic additive banned from toys in San Francisco and baby products nationwide.
A new study has found another correlation between BPA and health problems: in white children with higher levels of BPA in their fluids, obesity rates skyrocketed.
Socioeconomic and other factors were controlled for. In African American children, who often had higher levels of BPA overall, obesity wasn’t correlated. BPA is known to get stored in the body with fat, but beyond that there’s not much to say about why or how white children are affected by the chemical.
If BPA exposure didn’t worry you before, this should tip you over the edge to start trying to limit it’s presence in your house. What does that mean? Getting rid of plastic in your kitchen—in food preparation, serving, and storage. While you can buy BPA free plastics, BPA is just the most infamous chemical—phthalates, melamine, and other chemicals are also correlated with toxic effects from endocrine disruption to being very hard on your filtering organs—the liver and kidneys.
In small children, early exposure to these chemicals can lead to early onset puberty. It’s most noticeable in little girls, for obvious reasons, but probably because hair and other beauty products can be chalk full of the chemicals, and a correlation was found between their use and the appearance of puberty symptoms—breast bumps, body odor, body hair, etc.—in children as young as 3.
Also note that even though the FDA continues to rule BPA and other chemicals safe, BPA exposure (and that of other chemicals) is far higher than the limits the FDA discusses. In 2-3 year olds, melamine levels in urine were more than 20 times higher what’s considered safe for an adult.
It’s not the most serious issue facing your health, but it’s one that can be pretty easily corrected. Plastic containers should not be reused unless they were sold for that purpose. Once they become scratched or visibly start deteriorating, it’s time to upgrade. If it works for your lifestyle, choose glass and ceramics instead (preferably with rubber or silicone lids). Watch out for plastic linings on metal products!
If you don’t want to get rid of plastic in your kitchen, avoid putting hot or overly warm food in contact with it—heat helps leach the chemicals out of the plastic and into your food.
Can your own food, and if you can, get a set from Europe—here, the FDA regulates the safety of metal lids touching glass. Safety meaning “you might use the lids more times than you are supposed to, so we better layer on the chemicals”—generally, there’s concern about the metal rusting and having other problems, but the added chemicals are a problem in themselves, and have been shown to leach into canned foods. DON’T buy BPA free American cans—they have formaldehyde and a formaldehyde like substance instead! Luckily, there are very lovely glass sets from Europe in a range prices.
Are you concerned about plastics? Share your thoughts in the comments.