Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a type of chemical used in the creation of some plastics available for purchase. This plastic is used to create items regularly found in most homes, such as water bottles, Tupperware and dishes. Academic research has shown that long-term exposure to this chemical has serious health effects as the chemical disrupts the naturally occurring hormones within your body.
The Food and Drug Administration, otherwise known as the FDA, insists the levels of BPA found in common household items is negligible and thus cannot cause the development of adverse health effects.
Exposure to BPA may be directly linked to the development of diabetes, obesity and developmental delays in affected individuals. While these findings are recent and are susceptible to change, the overall opinion of the academic community is that the general public is at risk when exposed to BPA products. New discoveries on this subject are reinforcing the concern expressed over these potentially dangerous chemicals.
What are the potential side effects of BPA exposure?
According to a study conducted at North Carolina State University, the side-effects of BPA exposure are numerous. Due to the hormone-disrupting nature of this chemical, BPA may cause the development of cancer and may lead to the onset of early puberty in some affected individuals.
Heather Patisaul, one of the leading researchers at North Carolina State, has been studying the effects of BPA exposure and ingestion by monitoring mice that have been previously fed small amounts of BPA. Patisaul has discovered several changes to the development of fetal mice when inside the womb after the mother had been given a small amount of BPA.
Through these findings, Patisaul concluded that BPA exposure disrupts the estrogen levels within the mother mouse and effectively changes the way the fetal brain uses estrogen supplied by the mother. Consequently, fetuses exposed to BPA were found to have increased anxiety-related behaviors and the female fetuses went on to experience puberty at an earlier age.
The amount of BPA the mice were fed is akin to the low doses consumed by the American public each day. Though mice are different than humans, Patisaul has found these results alarming, as this means small doses of BPA in plastic may lead to the developmental delays of fetuses who are in the womb of a mother exposed to these chemicals.
The FDA does not support the claims made by Patisaul and her team at the North Carolina State University despite issuing a ban in 2012 of the use of BPA in children’s products, such as baby bottles and sippy cups.
In addition to identifying hormonal issues caused by BPA consumption, the research team at N.C. State found that low levels of BPA in the body may lead to the development of mammary tumors, changes to the cells contained within the prostate, kidney cysts and changes to the cells contained within the vagina. BPA exposure to female mice caused them to gain more weight and develop signs of obesity, though these results were not as prevalent in male mice.
Why does the FDA disagree with these new developments?
Despite Patisaul’s findings, the FDA maintains its stance regarding BPA exposure and the potential risks caused by this hormone-disrupting chemical. The FDA must follow federally regulated guidelines when testing chemicals used in the production of food or in the production of food packaging.
Academic researchers such as Patisaul do not need to follow these same guidelines, meaning their conclusions differ from those reached through FDA investigations. These federally-regulated guidelines were instated in the 1970s and have not been updated since which is cause for concern for those in the academic community who believe the FDA is missing crucial information pertaining to the consumption of low doses of BPA.
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The Food and Drug Administration is maintaining the safety of BPA in plastic because it is only conducting research based on overt safety risks posed by the presence of a chemical. Since BPA exposure does not directly contribute to the development of disease or disabilities, the FDA declares it safe for the general public.
Heather Patisaul and other academics cannot directly tie BPA exposure to the onset of an illness despite developing theories as to how the chemical contributes to these adverse effects. The FDA believes trace amounts of BPA found in the bloodstream are not leading to the death of American citizens and thus cannot be banned in the production of food packaging.
How do I decrease my exposure to BPA?
Limiting your exposure to BPA in plastic packaging is advisable until more information is learned about the potentially dangerous side effects caused by BPA exposure. Sippy cups and baby bottles containing BPA were banned in 2012 and thus are eliminated from sale at your local grocery store.
Aside from these items, many of the plastics available for purchase still contain BPA. To avoid purchasing these products, read the label on a plastic item or check the bottom of the item for a statement declaring the product BPA free. Many companies choose to stamp the information directly onto the plastic material to inform customers of the item’s safety.
Avoid consuming canned goods, such as canned vegetables or beans, as these often contain trace amounts of BPA. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables in lieu of canned items to prevent further exposure to this potentially harmful chemical.
Using a cardboard container or a glass container to store your leftovers is beneficial, as your food absorbs BPA when it is stored in plastic containers. If you currently store your leftover food in plastic containers that are not BPA free, refrain from microwaving these containers as BPA is released quicker at higher temperatures.
When you are purchasing a soft drink or other food items from a store, choose a product packaged in glass instead of purchasing an item packaged in plastic. This helps to reduce your exposure to BPA when consuming food outside of your home where your ability to control the packaging is limited.
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