What it is: Bisphenol A is a chemical compound typically bound to the polycarbonate plastic of these household products through strong chemical bonds.
Its danger: Scientists have known since the early 1990s that Bisphenol A could seep from finished plastics. Low levels of exposure can cause genetic abnormalities. Routine activities like heating liquids, storing acidic foods, and washing plastic containers with strong detergents may create conditions where the polycarbonate plastic may release Bisphenol A, which may leach directly into food or drinks (or milk in contaminated baby bottles!) and result in exposure when the food or drinks are consumed.
- While chronic exposure to the substance does not immediately manifest adverse health effects, it may result in gradual physical changes. Such changes may lead to adverse health effects if exposure occurs during sensitive periods of development like prenatal development, infancy, or puberty.
- Molecular biologist Patricia Hunt and her colleagues at Case Western Reserve University have linked Bisphenol A to cause errors in chromosome alignment during cell division called “Aneuploidy.” This causes spontaneous miscarriages and birth defects.
- Bisphenol A belongs to a category of chemicals called “endocrine disrupters” because of its ability to interfere with hormonal functions regulating body functions including reproduction and normal cell growth. Scientists have linked that exposure to this chemical can contribute to prostate cancer, breast cancer, cystic ovaries, and endometriosis. It is also associated with obesity.
- Animal research has shown that Bisphenol A’s ability to bind with estrogen receptors in the body disrupts the regulation of normal sexual development, which implies that exposure may lead to advanced onset of puberty and disruption of normal menstrual cycles in girls and decreased sperm production in boys.
It is precisely early puberty observed in an increasing number of boys and girls that spurred research on its cause, and scientists have identified the culprit—their chronic exposure to Bisphenol A from the polycarbonate bottles they used when they were babies.
Food and drink containers, microwave ovenware, refrigerator shelving, compact discs, water bottles, and surprise, surprise—seemingly innocent baby bottles, are made of polycarbonate plastic which contains a toxic substance called Bisphenol A.
Some safety household tips
- Use non-plastic containers to heat and store food.
- Replace older plastic containers that show signs of wear.
- Avoid the use of harsh detergents which may increase Bisphenol A leaching, when washing plastic containers.
- “Two words: Bad plastic” by Grossman, E. (2007), on www. salon.com
- “Polycarbonate Plastic Bottles & Bisphenol A” by Klotter, J., Townsend Letter (October 2006)
- “Bad for Baby” by Raloff, J., Science News (2007), Vol. 172, Issue 6
- “Plastics Chemical of ‘Some Concern’ for Fetal, Child Health” by Reinberg, S., Health Day Consumer News Service (2007)
Photo from sxc.hu