Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Plastics & chemicals

There has been a lot of attention given to the safety of plastics lately, specifically centering around BPAs, or bisphenol A. Bisphenol A is a compound used to make certain plastics, mostly #7 and #3 plastics. Recently, disputes have come up regarding the safety of BPAs; previously determined safe levels of BPAs are being challenged due to new scientific studies.

Although the evidence remains uncertain, some journalists like Nicholas Kristof have been vocal in their opinion to ban chemicals like BPAs from their households. Consumer Reports reviewed the levels of BPAs in food containers and found higher-than-desired levels in things like canned foods.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing its policy on BPAs, developing its chemical management program and producing action plans. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is also reviewing the safety of BPAs - a ruling is expected any day (the announcement was supposed to come recently but has been delayed.)

This article from Science News details some of the effects of BPAs in plastics. Effects include heart arrhythmias, gene modification, estrogen changes, and more. Another interesting article can be found here in Scientific American. CDC has a good fact sheet with all the basics of BPAs. According to this fact sheet, Americans have widespread exposure to BPAs, and females have higher levels of BPAs in their urine than males - children have higher levels as well. The National Toxicology Program has expressed concern for adverse effects of BPAs due to "developmental toxicity for fetuses, infants, and children" primarily because of "effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland."

What are we doing about this besides reviewing policies? Well, some states have begun to ban BPA chemicals from their plastics and some manufacturers have begun voluntarily taking BPAs out of their products. Canada widely bans BPAs in baby bottles.

What should we as consumers do, bottom line? Try to decrease your exposure to BPAs by avoiding #7 plastics. Mothers should limit their and their infants' exposure to BPAs by using BPA-free or glass baby bottles (or breastfeed but that's a whole 'nother blog post.)

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