The BPA Debate Continues

It’s no small wonder that there’s controversy regarding BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic –  seemingly contradictory studies abound.

BPA is highly prevalent in the manufacture of hard plastic food containers, dental sealants, sales receipts, the lining of canned foods – because of this prevalence, it’s even found in the urine of over 90% of the US adult population.

Although the Food and Drug Administration has rejected banning the chemical entirely, advocacy groups are still pushing them to do so.  The agency has banned the chemical from the manufacturing of baby bottles and sippy cups.

BPA Concerns

The problem with BPA is that it mimics estrogen, a human hormone which is the driving force behind many forms of breast cancer.  The most recent research was funded by the Breast Cancer Foundation; the study showed that BPA caused an increase risk of mammary cancers in laboratory rats.  The researchers concluded that women who were exposed to BPA in utero may be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer later in life.

However, not all studies show such a distinct association.  In October of 2009 a study reported in the journal Toxicological Sciences determined that while estrogen estradiol (EE2) exposure to affected the reproductive health of lab rats, copycat BPA did not.

Not Just an Increased Breast Cancer Risk

Other studies have been conducted that show an association of higher urine levels of BPA with type 2 diabetes, angina, coronary artery disease and heart attack.  A study currently published in the journal Environmental Healthy Perspectives that higher levels of the chemical are linked to lower levels of the thyroid hormone in pregnant women and their newborn baby boys.

Although the FDA has stated that the levels of BPA in urine is far below the safety threshold, many families still have concerns – and with all of the seemingly contradictory findings, this is hardly surprising.

If you are concerned about the safety of BPA, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following:

  • Proactively “seek out” BPA free products
  • Limit consumption of canned foods
  • Do not microwave hard plastic containers, as this may break the chemical down, allowing it to seep into foods
  • Use glass containers only

In the meantime, the jury is ultimately still out regarding the future of BPA.  A bill initially introduced by the late Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey has been reintroduced by a House subcommittee in an effort to completely ban the chemical.

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