A lot of research has been publicized over the past week regarding prenatal health effects of various environmental exposures, from diet to pharmaceuticals and now, plastics. A study released this week stated that pregnant women could be putting unborn babies and infants in harm’s way with BPA chemicals in plastic.
Bisphenol A has made headlines for its toxicity long before the results of this study, and has been banned in many countries around the world as well as in parts of the United States. This is a widely used chemical that can be found in food and drink packaging, such as water bottles and the inside coating of food cans. It also has practical applications, used in medical devices and in water supply pipes, among other things.
Another common item to find made with BPA plastic is baby bottles. There has not been a lot of specific information about the negative effects that BPA exposure can have on unborn children and infants, until now.
Scientists at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia have found that pregnant women who drink and eat from plastic bottles and containers that contain BPA chemicals could be harming their infants and unborn babies.
Deakin University scientist Dr. Yaan Gibert said that study results show that exposure to BPA during fetal development and in early life could lead to health consequences later on down the road.
Some of these consequences include a two-fold increased risk for obesity and type two diabetes. Reproductive issues and even breast cancer in females are also identified as some of the serious health effects from BPA chemical exposure. After all, BPA containers have been found to contain synthetic estrogens.
The highly toxic chemical has not been completely banned in Australia where the study has its origin, where small amounts are still officially considered safe, but Dr. Gibert and his research team say otherwise.
Dr. Gibert called for the ban of BPA in sippy cups and baby bottles, so that unborn babies and infants would at least be protected. This is a move that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for in 2012.
Since daily dosages of BPA are entering human bodies primarily as a result of eating and drinking from containers that contain the chemical, one way to prevent exposure is to make personal choices to buy BPA-free plastics. Aside from this consumer choice, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) lists several other precautions individuals can take as consumers. Among the suggestions are avoiding canned foods, and using glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods, since high temperatures cause BPA to leach out of plastics and into hot foods and liquids.
NIEHS includes information on their website about the increased dangers of BPA exposure for infants and unborn babies, citing them as more vulnerable for reproductive issues and other ill health effects later in life.
The burgeoning market for BPA-free plastics may not be the entire solution though, as research is emerging that suggests these plastics also contain harmful chemicals such as synthetic estrogens. In fact, the National Institutes of Health have funded studies that found that “almost all” of the commercially available plastics tested contain synthetic estrogens, which leached even without exposure to heat from the microwave or dishwasher. Some of the synthetic estrogens released from BPA-free containers were actually found to be even worse than those found in BPA-laden containers.
For mothers that want their infants and unborn babies to be unharmed by BPA in plastics, or plastics in general, it appears that for now the best thing to do may be to avoid them all together.
By Erica Salcuni