By Tiffany Andersen
BPA or Bisphenol-A is a chemical found in plastics, most notably baby bottles, the lining of baby formula cans and other common canned foods. There is much debate about the safety of BPA, especially on infants and children, since it has been shown in trace amounts to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.
BPA is a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Most commonly found in baby products, it is also contained in computers and cell phones, water and beverage bottles, canned goods, epoxy paints and safety equipment. It is estimated that an annual 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced worldwide at a value of about $6 billion dollars.
After growing concern over the safety of BPA, research and talks began about its use in early 2008. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concurred with an expert panel from the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, which is part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, that there is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures. The NTP also has some concern for bisphenol -A exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females. The issue has grown so much that some retailers have taken measures to deal with BPA containing items. Wal-Mart agreed to stop selling baby products that contained BPA as of early 2009. Target began testing glass baby bottles for sale on-line in February 2008 and Babies R Us has increased inventory of baby products that are BPA free. Most consumers can now find BPA free products, although still alongside traditional plastic products that still contain BPA. By the way, Japan banned BPA from 95% of its canned goods 10 years ago (China has not).
Here is a rundown on what we currently can conclude: It may take a very long time to get actual proof of the harmful effects BPA may have on humans and therefore federal intervention. Scientists do know that BPA effects behavior, neurological, reproductive and endocrine systems in animals given doses much less than humans consume regularly and exposure during time of pregnancy can cause permanent DNA changes to a fetus, which can lead to adverse health effects later in life.
What you can do now as a precautionary measure is: stay away from canned goods. Canned products, especially those that contain acids (tomatoes) or alcohol (canned beer) cause a greater leaching out of BPA. Throw out hard, clear plastics. Switch to stainless steel water bottles. Although plastics with the #1, 2, 4, and 5 do not contain BPA, #7, unless stipulated BPA-free, contains BPA and is the one to watch for. Also, never heat plastic in the microwave or wash in the dishwasher or with harsh detergents. Don’t put hot foods into plastic and switch to glass containers for storing and heating food.
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