Tag Archives: BPA

Food is largest source of exposure to BPA

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Image by Daquella manera via Flickr

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical additive that is used in many things but mainly in plastics and linings of food cans.  Up until a few years ago this was considered a harmless addition to our already high chemical exposure levels.  Then, it was found that exposure to this chemical is linked to serious side effects but you could avoid any consequences by not reusing that Poland Spring bottle, by not overheating your plastics in the microwave or by buying BPA free merchandise.  Now we are finding out that our largest exposure to BPA is our food itself.

BPA has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, male infertility and other health problems.  Recently a U.N. panel concluded that the BPA in the packaging of our foods is actually leaching into the food making our food the number one source of exposure.  This should not be surprising.  One only needs to see the aftermath of the oil spill in the gulf to see that chemicals can get everywhere given the opportunity.

Information is limited on BPA.  It certain amounts it poses threats to fetuses, infants and growing children.  No one is quite sure what it does to adults.  For me, that’s enough.  If you didn’t know if a gun was loaded, would you point it at someone and pull the trigger?  Hopefully not and this is similar.  Just because we don’t know if it’s dangerous and the government is unwilling to take a stand on it just yet, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be eliminated from our food supply.

This is just another reason to eat an unprocessed, natural diet.  Because this exposure of BPA is coming from foods that are packaged it can be avoided to some degree.  Eat a diet that is high in healthy protein, fats and vegetables and fruits.  Stay away from the packaged food as much as possible. Not only will you avoid BPA but you’ll also get all the great benefits of a healthy diet!

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Solving Childhood Obesity – Part II – Chemical Exposures

In my last blog I spoke about the importance of breastfeeding a child in regards to reducing childhood obesity in this country.  That was the first part in a series of blogs I am writing to help get the word out about the new Let’s Move campaign.  I usually don’t see eye to eye with these kinds of campaigns but after reading the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President I was pleasantly surprised with many of the ideas put forth.  They are very much in line with my philosophy on health care.  In this second part in my series we will be talking about chemical exposures and how it relates to obesity.

Chemicals and Obesity

The evolution of our children...

Chemicals are all around us.  They make our lives easier in some ways (think gasoline) but they also take a toll on human physiology.  Chemicals may mimic human hormones and cause problems in that way.  Chemicals that do this are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

These EDCs can cause problems in several ways.  They may promote obesity by increasing the number of fat cells, changing the amount of calories burned at rest, altering energy balance, and altering the body’s mechanisms for appetite and satiety.  Some also mimic human sex hormones such as estrogen which also alters metabolism.

Fetal and newborn exposure to these chemicals can cause more weight gain per unit of food gained and less weight expenditure per unit of exercise.  Over time this results in significant weight gain and all of the conditions associated with being overweight significantly increase.  The results these EDCs have on the fetus or young child appear to be permanent and persist well into adulthood.  According to scientists these chemicals change genetic expression and permanently alter metabolism.

Where are we getting these exposures?

Unfortunately, there are many sources of these chemicals.  Below I have listed some very common ones.

DDT – DDT is a chemical that was originally used as a pesticide to control mosquito populations.  It was synthesized during World War II as an alternative to an effective natural pesticide that was exported to the US from Japan.  It was studied very little but approved for civilian use after the war.  As early as 1946, the harmful effects of DDT on bird, beneficial insects, fish, and marine invertebrates were seen in the environment.  DDT has been found in the tissues of animals world wide and has even been found in the polar ice caps and the Himalayas.  This illustrates that it has spread to areas of the world where it was never directly applied.  DDT interferes with reproductive abilities suggesting that it alters human sex hormones and may play into obesity in that capacity.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) –  PCBs are a class of chlorinated compounds used as industrial coolants and lubricants.  The health effects of PCB exposure have been known since the 1930’s and were seen in the workers who made the product.  Unlike DDT this chemical was not supposed to be applied directly to the environment.  Companies, however, were not responsible in the disposal of it.  Between 1952 and 1977, the New York GE plant had dumped more than 500,000 pounds of PCB waste into the Hudson River.  Again, toxic effects were seen very early on in workers producing the chemical but Monsanto (the largest producer of PCBs) downplayed health issues stemming from it in order to continue making money from its production.  Recent studies show the endocrine interference of PCBs is related to the liver and thyroid and increases childhood obesity in children exposed prenatally.  Additionally, it may increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Bisphenol A (BPA)I have previously written a blog about BPA. If you’re interested please read that as well.  BPA is a chemical that is used in plastic water bottles, the lining of cans, baby bottles, plastic food containers and dental materials.  It has been shown through many studies that even in low levels of exposure it increases the risk of diabetes, breast and prostate cancers, causes decreased sperm count, reproductive problems, early puberty, obesity, and neurological problems.  Fortunately, most responsible companies have stopped using it in their products but the total load of BPA in our environment is likely to remain very high because the breakdown of the products that contain it will continue for hundreds of years.

Phthalates – These are found in some soft toys, flooring, medical equipment, cosmetics and air fresheners.  The main area of concern for phthalates is the disruption of the male reproductive system.  Again, it likely alters sex hormones with can adversely affect metabolism.  Europe and California have banned its use in toys.

So What Can You Do To Protect Yourself  And Your Child?

  1. My advice to patients is always to live as naturally as possible.  Eat foods that are fresh so you can avoid the packaging that contains many of these chemicals.
  2. Don’t use artificial air fresheners.  They do make phthalate free air fresheners these days.
  3. Buy your baby’s toys from companies that are ecofriendly.  Those companies won’t use any of these chemicals.
  4. If you reheat your food or food for your children don’t do it in a plastic container.  Buy glass containers to store your food and use them to reheat your food.  Heating plastics increase the speed some of these chemicals break down.
  5. Use a glass baby bottle.
  6. Avoid generic fish oil.  They have been shown to have high levels of PCBs in them.  Always get your fish oil from a health professional.  (Check out our blog on PCB contamination of fish oil)

It isn’t possible to avoid all exposure.  After all DDT, while not used anymore, can be found even in the farthest reaches of the world.  The goal is to keep exposure to a minimum and keep your body as healthy as possible so it is adequately equipped to fight back.  That means eating healthy, exercising and avoiding unnecessary chemicals like cigarette smoke.  You should also take supplements known to have powerful antioxidant effects.  If you do this, you are providing as much protection as possible.

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Baby Bottles and BPA – You need to know the facts…

Bisphenol A of BPA is a chemical that is used in plastics and in the lining of cans.  It is what is known as a xeno-estrogen.  That means that it mimics the human hormone estrogen.  It is so widely used that virtually all Americans have likely been exposed.  In fact, one study found that BPA could be detected in the urine of 95% of adults. (Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 113, Number 4, April 2005.)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report in September 2008 concluding that there was cause for “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures.”

Other studies have linked BPA to a host of cancers, early onset puberty, obesity and type II diabetes.  Current research suggests that it can be harmful in extremely low quantities – parts per trillion – yet most people are exposed to levels 10 to 100 times greater than that. This is another example of an chemical that has made its way into our lives and continues to be there despite good evidence that it is dangerous.

But how exactly does it get from the plastic to us?  It’s called leaching.  As the plastic begins to break down, the BPA leaches out of the plastic and we ingest the chemical.  This process is sped up greatly by heating.  So as you wash that baby bottle in hot water you are actually speeding up the degradation of the plastic and increasing the leaching of BPA.  A good rule of thumb is that the hotter the wash or the older the bottle the more BPA will leach.

The problem is that the group of people that is probably most at risk are infants and small children which is precisely the people who will be feeding out of a bottle.  Small children are most at risk because their bodies are growing rapidly.  Rapidly growing cells are always more susceptible to damage from toxins than mature cells that have finished growing.  This is true of any chemical, not just BPA.  BPA alters the way genes are activated in the cells of rats.  These cells, according to scientists, are very similar to human cells.  When these cells are exposed to amounts of BPA that a baby would receive from a plastic bottle they divide quicker and eventually cause cancer.

So what can you do?  Below is a link to a great website that has tips on what you can do to avoid BPA exposure.  Fortunately, most responsible companies have moved away from using it in their products, but that doesn’t change what is already on the shelf.

Tips to Avoid BPA – Click Here

I believe this is a major problem and BPA should be eliminated from all materials that are to be used in any form of human consumption.  The research is there and it’s clear that there is at least something to be concerned about.  My patients often ask me about this and the best way to avoid exposure for your baby is to breast feed.  If you do need a bottle from time to time, buy glass bottles or buy a BPA free bottle – they are available.

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