Why is fat related to plastic chemicals? Turns out, BPA and other "obesogens" leach from plastics, cleaning products and cosmetics and find their way into our bodies through our food, water, air--and through our skins. These synthetic chemicals “mimic” the behavior of estrogen and other hormones and have also been linked to cancer and learning problems.
Products Containing BPA
BPA, for example, is found in polycarbonate plastic (PC #7) sports and baby bottles, canned food linings, pizza boxes, cash register receipts and even dollar bills. Plastics and cans are believed to be our most common routes of exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,which found in the urine of nearly all 2,500 people the Centers tested in 2003-4. http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/BisphenolA_FactSheet.html.
The Bad on BPA: The latest science
Bisphenol-A (BPA),has been connected with higher incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in humans in a 2008 study. In a 2010 study, mother mice exposed to higher levels of BPA were found to be heavier than those who were not, and to produce offspring who were more likely to be fat and pre-diabetic.
Human fertility also appears to be at risk from BPA exposures. In 2010, a study at University of San Francisco connected BPA with impaired egg quality in women. Researchers found that,as blood levels of BPA in women doubled, the number of eggs that could be fertilized declined by 50%. Other studies have linked BPA to reduced sperm counts http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39888170/ns/health-mens_health/and other fertility problems in humans.
Perhaps most alarming is BPA’s potential to harm developing fetuses, infants and children. In 2010, BPA was linked to aggressive behavior in baby girls, as Janet Raloff reported in Science Times. Animal studies have shown that BPA can cause brain damage and learning disorders as well as interfere with reproductive systems. Exposure to BPA in the womb has led to development of asthma in animals.
How to Avoid BPA and Other Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Products
The good news: While BPA is pretty much everywhere, it can be avoided.
Below are five small but significant steps adapted from my book, Do One Green Thing, for losing your body burden of toxic chemicals.
1. Bypass the BPA:
Eat more fresh and less canned food. Consumers Union tests found pervasive BPA in canned food linings last year; Eden Foods has been using BPA-free can linings for more than a decade.
Phase out sports and baby bottles and kitchenware made with polycarbonate PC #7 plastic. Use my lists of top food storage containers and safest drink bottles.
Never microwave food in any plastic container; perversely, even so-called “safe” plastics have been found to leach BPA when heated .
2. Choose green, botanically-derived household cleaning products, like these dish soaps. Use my list of conventional cleaning ingredients to avoid for the sake of your indoor air and our waterways.
Yes, household air can get a little stale in January, but rather than spraying toxic synthetic “air fresheners,”, crack a window to let real fresh air in. For fragrancing, set out some potpourri or dip diffuser sticks in a vial of plant essential oils, like the pure tropical blends from Alora Ambiance.
3. Don’t buy toys, apparel and home decorating products made with PVC vinyl, often identified by the recycling code #3, which can be contaminated with brain-damaging lead and phthalates, which have been linked to obesity in human adults, asthma in children, and reproductive deformities in infants and wildlife.
4. Eat more organic and locally-grown produce and fewer meats and processed foods. It's good for your waistline and you'll reduce toxic pesticide exposures and unhealthy fats, preservatives and sugars in your diet. You can also choose low-mercury, sustainable fish using EDF’s handy seafood selector cards.
5. Stop buying bottled water. It’s generally not safer than tap, as shown by EWG’s 2011 drinking water report.
Eighty percent of disposable plastic bottles wind up in landfills and oceanic garbage patches, whereas 80% of glass is recycled! And, when heated, these polyethylene (PET #1) bottles can release phthalates and other toxic chemicals in some tests, as this 2010 study finds. Drink tap water, filtered if necessary, and get involved with local and environmental groups that work on protecting watersheds, including Environmental Defense Fund. In California, for instance, here are EDF's efforts to preserve major ecosystems by making water use more sustainable.
We're Not Guinea Pigs! Taking Action for Safe Chemicals Policy
Despite BPA’s lengthy rap sheet, the U.S. has resisted taking protective action, lagging behind Canada and Europe. In late 2010, the EU banned BPA in plastic baby bottles, while a similar law, sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein and calling for further studies by the U.S. FDA, foundered in Congress. Another BPA ban was rejected by the California legislature last fall, after last-minute lobbying by the chemical industry,the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Californialegislators also failed to implement California’s Green Chemistry Initiative. Scheduled to take effect this month, the law would have kept carcinogens out of household cleaners, cosmetics and children’s products, while requiring companies to fully disclose ingredients and materials .
We’re not guinea pigs, but we’re being treated that way “Children’s toys, kitchen productds, cosmetics, fast food containers–countless items that we use on a daily basis are made with chemicals that science is linking to the rising rates of childhood cancers, infertility, learning disabilities and more,” says Richard Denison, Ph.D., senior scientist with EDF, which is part of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition working for policy change. Join up! You'll be glad you did.
Until regulations are in place, it’s up to us to protect ourselves and the environment from chemicals hidden in everyday products.
If you’ll be in the Bay Area today, January 11th, please join me at a toxic chemicals and daily products talk and sustainable cocktail party at EDF's San Francisco office, from 5:30-7:30, sponsored by Whole Living Magazine, where I'm the "Econundrums" columnist online and in every print issue. RSVP at this link.
Got a question? Ask me on my home page at GreenerPenny.com, and sign up for our free monthly email newsletter filled with new studies and green living tips.
Thanks, and Happy Nontoxic New Year!