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Chemical concerns: Avoid troubling plastics

A number “7” inside the recycling mark on the bottom of a plastic container means that it is a polycarbonate plastic.

KEN HELLE | Times (2008)

A number “7” inside the recycling mark on the bottom of a plastic container means that it is a polycarbonate plastic.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is the primary component in polycarbonate plastic and is used in the resin lining of most food and beverage cans. Exposure to BPA, a hormone-mimicking compound, is linked in animal studies to early puberty and other reproductive harms.

Health worries

In animal studies, BPA has been shown to mimic the female hormone estrogen. Exposure among test animals to this chemical early in life is associated with:

• Precancerous changes in the mammary and prostate glands.

• Altered development of the brain causing behavioral abnormalities and earlier onset of puberty.

• Reproductive abnormalities such as lower sperm counts, hormonal changes, enlarged prostate glands and abnormalities in the number of chromosomes in eggs.

• Insulin resistance, a condition that commonly precedes the development of diabetes, and obesity.

There is concern that BPA may cause similar health problems in humans. More than 90 percent of the population has BPA in their bodies, at levels close to those shown to cause harm in animal studies.

Where it is found

BPA is used in the resin lining of all food and beverage cans. It is the principal building block of polycarbonate plastic and is used in a wide range of products, including clear plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, clear plastic water bottles and other kitchen plastics such as measuring cups, drinkware and storage containers. BPA is also found in some dental sealants and fillings, medical devices, paints, epoxy adhesives and cash register receipts.

A number of canned foods and plastic bottle manufacturers have stopped using BPA, though because there is no labeling requirement, consumers do not know which products contain BPA and which don't.

Stay safe

• Don't use polycarbonate plastics (marked with a 7) for storing food or beverages, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or the food or drink is for an infant or young child.

• Avoid canned beverages, foods and soups, especially if pregnant or feeding young children. Choose frozen vegetables and soups and broth that come in glass jars or in aseptic "brick" cartons, as these are BPA-free.

• Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.

• Don't allow your dentist to apply dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE) to either yours or your child's teeth. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.

Chemical concerns: Avoid troubling plastics 03/06/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 5:27pm]
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