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Poisonous baby products and another chapter in BPA scandal

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We constantly come into contact with items that contain some form of plastic, many of which contain toxic additives such as bisphenols A, S and F (BPA, BPS and BPF) among many others. Bisphenol compounds are found in numerous household products that we give to our infants without thinking - baby bottles, sippy cups, plastic food storage containers, even the linings of baby formula tins. The chemicals present in these items can leach into the food or drink contained within them in a process that occurs at a higher rate during common processes such as boiling, heating and microwaving.[1] 

Bisphenol compounds such as BPA are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC), meaning they can interfere with hormone systems within the body.[2] [3] [4] EDCs can affect the body’s development, growth and hormone balance by mimicking, blocking or disrupting the body’s natural hormones.[5] [6] Unborn and young children seem to be the most susceptible; for example EDC exposure during early foetal development increases the probability of negative health outcomes later in life, including cancers, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders, asthma and immune disorders.[7] 

Because of these potential effects on health, BPA was banned from use in baby bottles in Canada, France and Denmark in 2010,[8] before being banned across the EU in 2011.[9] Although these statutory bans were minimal, big anti-BPA PR campaigns have led to an increase in the number of BPA-free plastic products becoming available, particularly BPA-free bottles. However, they may not be the “safe” alternative that they claim to be. One study, for example, found that EDCs still leach from BPA-free plastic products, explaining that BPA-free does not mean EDC free.[10] Indeed BPA-free products often use the alternatives BPS or BPF, which are currently still authorised for use in baby bottles, despite them causing many of the same harmful effects as BPA.[10] Indeed there are now concerns that BPA-free plastics may actually have greater levels of EDCs than plastics made with BPA.[11] Worse still, BPA is currently only banned from use in baby bottles in Europe; it is still permitted in children’s plastic plates and cutlery, plastic toys and teething rings and even baby food container. Shockingly, equally toxic BPS and BPF are completely unrestricted, like BPA was before its ban from use in baby bottles.

Despite the fact that previously permitted levels of BPA were thought to be “safe”, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reconsidered what it deemed to be a “safe” level in 2015, reducing the permitted amount by over 90%. They stated that “current exposure to the chemical is too low to cause harm”, but went on to state that “BPA at high doses (more than 100 times the TDI) is likely to cause adverse effects in the kidney and liver” and that, worryingly, they could not exclude “possible effects of BPA on the reproductive, nervous, immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems, as well as in the development of cancer”.[12] Yet even these new, lower levels may not truly reflect a “safe” level of exposure, as they do not take into account the additive effects of multiple exposures during frequent use, or exposure to multiple EDCs in one product.
Therefore, the only way to be truly safe is to try to avoid plastic at all costs until EDC-free certified plastics are available. Just because a plastic is touted as BPA-free does not necessarily mean it is actually non-toxic. A safer and healthier alternative is to use glass containers wherever possible. Glass doesn’t contain the toxic additives that most plastics do, and is inert, which means that it doesn’t react with the food contained inside it like plastic does. It also means that it remains safe, even with high temperature washing, microwaving and UV light. Although, when using glass as an alternative, don’t forget to check what the lid is made of, as plastic may also be hiding in the form of a closure seal. Extra caution should also always be taken when using glass products around infants and children.

 

[1] Lim, DS. et al. (2009) Potential risk of bisphenol A migration from polycarbonate containers after heating, boiling, and microwaving. J Toxicol Environ Health. 72(21-22). 1285-91.

[2] Mersha, MD. et al. (2015) Effects of BPA and BPS exposure limited to early embryogenesis persist to impair non-associative learning in adults. Behav Brain Funct. [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1186/s12993-015-0071-y.

[3] Qiu, W. et al. (2016) Actions of Bisphenol A and Bisphenol S on the Reproductive Neuroendocrine System During Early Development in Zebrafish. Endocrinology. 157(2). 636-47.

[4] Sheikh, IA. et al. (2016) Endocrine Disruption: Computational Perspectives on Human Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin and Phthalate Plasticizers. PLoS One. 11(3). [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151444.

[5] Casals-Casas, C. & Desvergne, B. (2011) Endocrine disruptors: from endocrine to metabolic disruption. Ann Rev Physiol. 73. 135-62.

[6] Roy, J. et al. (2009) Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans--a review. Med Sci Monit. 15(6). RA137-45.

[7] Landrigan, P. et al. (2003) Assessing the effects of endocrine disruptors in the National Children's Study. Environ Health Perspect. 111(13). 1678-8

[8] European Commission (2010) Bisphenol A and baby bottles: challenges and perspectives. Retrieved May 2016 from, http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC58897/eur%2024389_bpa%20%20baby%20bottles_chall%20%20persp%20(2).pdf 

[9] European Commission (2011) Ban of Bisphenol A in baby bottles. Retrieved May 2016 from, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/dyna/consumervoice/create_cv.cfm?cv_id=716 

[10] Bittner, GD et al. (2014) Estrogenic chemicals often leach from BPA-free plastic products that are replacements for BPA-containing polycarbonate products. Environ Health. 13. 41-55.

[11] Yang, CZ. et al. (2011) Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved. Environ Health Perpect. 119(7). 989-96.

[12] EFSA (2015) Scientific opinion on bisphenol A. Retrieved May 2016 from, http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/corporate_publications/files/factsheetbpa150121.pdf 

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