Over the last 20 years, an increasing number of research and studies have been done to bring more light about what does or doesn’t contribute to illness like cancer and obesity in children. More and more studies are also being done about the potential health risks of exposure to chemicals in food and environment. The findings from these studies are alarming enough that they should get our attention.
But how many times have you brush off a study that says red meat is bad for you or eating lots of sugar contributes to obesity in children? What about studies on common household goods and personal products that can lead to an accumulation of toxins in the body? We all have done it, there are times we roll our eyes and ignore these studies. Why? because it is easier and perhaps even more satisfying to eat whatever we want and use whichever product is available and convenient than to actually think about the potential ramifications of doing so. Unfortunately, soon or later ignoring such facts come back to hunt us and we end up paying the consequences of a poor decision. With that said, I am hoping you continue reading as this can potentially make a big difference in your health as well as that of your family.
Have you ever wonder why children are now showing early signs of puberty such as breast growth and development of pubic hair among other symptoms? Obesity appears to be a major factor, but the latest studies suggest being overweight might not be the only factor. Chemical exposure in the environment may also be the culprit. Researches are also pointing to “endocrine disruptors” playing a part in triggering early puberty. Simply put, endocrine disruptors are chemicals similar in structure to natural sex hormones such as estrogen, thereby interfering with their normal functions. Endocrine disruptors are found in many common household goods, personal care products and even food and water.The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has stated:
“There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.”
Related article: Food additives and toxins changing our children
We are expose to many endocrine disruptors in our daily lives, one that is common and we are likely to be in contact with through out our day is Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical used to harden plastics, keep bacteria from contaminating foods and prevent cans from rusting. These measures seem like a good thing, but there are concerns about the possible harmful effect of BPA may have on humans, particularly on infants and children.
Effects have become apparent in humans over the past half century that are consistent with those seen in animal after exposures to high to doses of chemicals such BPA. These effects include increase in genital abnormality in boys and earlier sexual maturation in girls. And I am just talking about one type of endocrine disruptor affecting our hormones and our children’s body.
Studies have shown BPA is linked to the following human health problems:
- Breast damage
- Prostate damage
- Early puberty
- Preterm birth
- Disrupted reproductive cycles
- Ovarian toxicity and infertility
- Behavioral problems
- IQ reduction in Children
- Depression, anxiety, and stress
- Risk of heart disease, diabetes and liver toxicity
Where is BPA found?
BPA is showing up in all sorts of consumer products. If a product doesn’t say that it is BPA-free it is likely made with BPA. Most common products using BPA are:
Why has the government allow this?
Unfortunately, just like the other 62,000 industrial chemicals we are being exposed to every day, back in 1976, BPA was presumed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when the first law to regulate industrial chemical was established. There was no further evaluation done to prove its safety. This was decades ago! with an increasingly industrialized world, the umber and amount of environmental pollutants have exponentially increase since 1976.
Keep in mind that the federal law presumes that most chemicals are safe until proven toxic!
“The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which governs chemical safety, says that when a chemical maker creates a new substance, it needs only to notify the Environmental Protection Agency. The law gives the EPA just 90 days to figure out if the new chemical poses any risks and if the agency should try to restrict it. If the EPA doesn’t take action during that 90-day window, it gives the chemical a green light by default.”
What to do?
Personally, I take precautionary measures to reduce exposure of BPA for my family, and this includes avoiding water bottles that are not BPA-free as much as I can. Our family drink lots of water, and we do spend a fair amount of money on filtered and PBA-free so our next step is to save up for a high-quality reverse osmosis filter! When buying tuna or salmon in a can, I look for the BPA-free label, if it is not there I skip it, better option is to eat fresh fish and salmon. Also, when I can I buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans. I have a Sprouts Market close to me and I am happy to know their brand is BPA-free. The most precautionary measure to take is to eat fresh whole foods and avoid processed and packaged foods since these are a common source of endocrine disruptors.
Although removing BPA entirely from daily exposure is almost impossible, here are some additional recommendations to reduce it for a better health. Keep in mind that you might end up spending a little bit more money on eating better and healthier but look at it as an investment. A healthier lifestyle change should minimize doctor visits, medical bills, stress and maximize energy and even better behavior from your kids!
- Eat mostly fresh whole foods
- Minimize or avoid processed and packaged foods
- Avoid bottles and containers with the recycling number 7 and the letters “PC” imprinted on them. Many contain BPA
- Consider using certified or identified BPA-free plastic bottles
- Look for the recycle symbols with the number 2 or 5 in them
- Look for products that are made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, green, non-toxic and/or 100% organic. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, upholstery and more
- Consider glass bottles
- Limit consumption of canned foods and considered using BPA-free canned foods
- Heat causes the release of BPA from plastic, so don’t use BPA plastics for warm food or drinks
- Avoid putting any plastic containers in microwaves
- Wash plastics on top shelf of your dishwasher or by hand
- Minimize receipt collection by declining receipts at gas pumps, ATMs and other machines when possible
- Store receipts separately in an envelope in a wallet or purse
- Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with
- After handling a receipt, wash hands before preparing and eating food (a universally recommended practice even for those who have not handled receipts).
Many companies have pledged to stop using BPA in their cans. But there are still many out there that use BPA in their canned foods.
Related article: Endocrine Disruptors
A little history of BPA if you are interested:
- BPA was invented in 1891, but the first evidence of its toxicity was not discovered until the 1930s.
- 1940’s-1950’s: The chemical industry begins to use BPA to manufacture plastic and be used in linings for metal food cans
- 1950’s to present: BPA is abundantly in products from bicycle helmets, water coolers, bottle waters, popcorn makers, metal food cans to baby bottles
- 1997: Government tests reveal BPA contamination in infant formula. Formula-fed infants are expose to BPA in excess amount found to harm development
- 1999: BPA found to leach from baby bottles
- May 1999: FDA concludes BPA is safe based on 14 tests of infant formula and ignores emerging evidence of low dose BPA toxicity
- October 1999: Scientist report that exposures to BPA hastens puberty in female mice
- 2002: Study finds brain and behavioral effect from BPA exposure
- 2003: The National Institute of Health (NIH) evaluates human BPA risks
- 2003:-2006: Industry consultant conducts initial BPA assessment and states “BPA is safe”
- 2007: It is discovered that the government’s BPA consultant works for BPA manufactures. Congress launches investigation of government conflict of interest policies on BPA
- March 2007: First broad study of canned food shows widespread contamination
- Infant formula companies reveal that they don not know how much BPA is in their formula
- August 2008: Study shows many infants exposed to BPA contaminated in infant formula
- Spring 2008: Government finds BPA poses risks to humans, Wal-Mart and other retailers pull BPA products from shelves
- 2009: Over 20 states introduce bills to reduce children’s exposure to BPA
- 2011: European Union bans BPA in baby bottles and China propose BPA ban
Find detail timeline of BPA invention to present at ewg.go
Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association 2014;311(8):806-814.
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