In an iconic cinema moment from The Graduate, the middle-aged man put his arm around young Ben and had just one word for him: plastics. Perhaps we all should have taken him more seriously.
In addition to their content of potentially toxic phthalates, plastics are also a major source of Bisphenol A. This compound has been reported to be associated with disorders of reproductive health, some cancers, heart disease, other endocrine problems and neurotoxicity in children-especially behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression and hyperactivity.
A recent study has now shown an association between prenatal exposure to low dose Bisphenol A and the risk of food intolerance later in life. The research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, showed that animals (rats) born to mothers given BPA when pregnant had an increased immune response to a food protein and increased inflammation of the colon. As with some of the other conditions associated with Bisphenol A, food sensitivity seems to be a problem of increased prevalence in recent decades.
Bisphenol A is also found in the lining of food cans and water supply pipes. Even though it’s been eliminated from baby bottles and sippy cups, it’s still in other food containers and leaches into food. One would think, therefore, that only using products labeled BPA-free would solve the problem, but in the world of environmental medicine nothing is that easy.
Researchers at the University of Calgary have done studies on Bisphenol-S, a common ingredient in BPA-free products. Working with zebra fish which are considered a good tool for studying human brain development, the scientists found ‘growth surges’. These are associated with hyperactivity, and were even worse in BPS than in BPA. This led the researchers to suggest that all similar compounds may be unsafe.
Part of the problem may be that our regulatory structure in the U.S. assumes chemicals are safe until they’re demonstrated to be toxic, as opposed to the European system where a chemical must be shown to be safe before it is used by the public.
The prudent thing to do would be to avoid plastic and canned food containers and eat whole food. Reducing one’s total load is a more realistic goal than total elimination. After all, BPA has even been found in breast milk.