More Links Between BPA Plastic & Human Health

December 6, 2011

A few years ago, plastic water containers, including best-selling brand Nalgene, were recalled after it was revealed that hot water caused the containers to leach Bisephenol-A (BPA) (mountain climbers frequently put boiling water into their plastic water containers so that it won’t overflow as they reach a higher altitude).

Now, most plastic water containers are BPA free, although not all food storage containers are. Ongoing studies are examining the link between BPA and human health, including that in developing children. One study found a link between BPA exposure during pregnancy and childhood aggression.

What Is BPA?

Plastics contain a number of chemicals that help them have desirable properties, durability, flexibility, etc. BPA plastic has become the most notorious, even being banned by the city of San Francisco. However, there are other common chemicals found in plastics (and your beauty products) that may have an impact on human health.

BPA, labelled on plastic water containers etc. as other, 7, like parabens and other ubiquitous chemicals has the property of being estrogenic. That means that it could have an impact on estrogen receptors in the body, and an even stronger impact in children, who aren’t yet meant to have high levels of sex hormones.

What Is BPA’s Effects?

Harvard University School Of Public Health measured BPA levels in the urine of pregnant women, and found that the baby girls exposed to the highest levels of BPA showed a marked increased in “aggressive and undesirable behaviours”.

Another study found that children who were more exposed to estrogenic compounds early in life (specifically beauty products—unfortunately, it’s chemicals like parabens & pthalates that really make hair soft and supple and protect it from damage) were more likely to start early puberty (“precocious puberty“-PDF). Think body hair, breasts, body odor, or menstruation at age 3.

It’s not as uncommon as you would hope—and it affects girls disproportionately. Officially, there’s no known cause, but many papers have been written citing a link between use of estrogen-like compounds and these side-effects.

Avoid BPA Plastics & Other Chemicals

There’s a heavy debate about whether or not plastics can really be “food safe”. (Note: “Microwave Safe” only means the plastic won’t melt, not that it won’t leach chemicals). To be safe, don’t put warm or hot foods in plastic containers (or look for containers that are BPA, Pthalate, and Paraben free. Baby products usually meet this criteria).

You can recycle your old containers, or use them to store cold foods like fruits and vegetables (think of it as an excuse to eat more!). Of course, room temperature snacks are also a good fit.

If you’re replacing your water storage containers, make sure to read labels—metal ones often contain a plastic coating and dent easily, meaning it could break off into your drink. Most water container brands are now BPA free, although stick to adding only cold water if you can.

In the bathroom, read labels carefully. You may not want to part with your favorite conditioner, but there are probably lots of products that can be affordably replaced the next time you need to buy them. The more natural the ingredients, the better. Skin is a protective barrier against many things, but it can still absorb chemicals.

Have you replaced BPA plastic in your life? What are your tips?

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