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American plastics manufacturers make their products with a synthetic estrogen called bisphenols A, or BPA. Plastic products require nearly 2,000,000,000 pounds (850,000,000 kilos) of BPA per year in the USA alone over 6 pounds (3 kilos) per American.

How bisphenol A products affect your health

How bisphenol A products affect your health has become one of the key issues of environmental health. In the famous movie from the 1960's The Graduate, a young Dustin Hoffman was advised that future could be summed up in just one word, "Plastics." Now nearly 50 years later, plastics aren't just a part of our lives, they are a part of us.

American plastics manufacturers make their products with a synthetic estrogen called bisphenols A, or BPA. Plastic products require nearly 2,000,000,000 pounds (850,000,000 kilos) of BPA per year in the USA alone, over 6 pounds (3 kilos) per American. That is an awful lot of synthetic estrogen.

The reason manufacturers use so much of the chemical

The reason manufacturers use so much of the chemical is that it can be mixed with other chemicals to make plastics and the only byproduct is water. BPA is used to make milk and soft drink bottles, plastic lenses for eyeglasses, dental fillings, DVDs, sports equipment, carbonless carbon paper, flame retardant fabric, and, ironically, medical equipment that can inserted into and left in the human body. But the incredibly widespread usage of this chemical is part of the reason the question of how bisphenol A products affect your health has become so urgent.

More than 90 per cent of Americans excrete BPA in their urine. The chemical has been associated with breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, shrinking genitals in men and infertility in both sexes, and attention deficit in both boys and girls. And even worse, BPA is now in our food.

In 2009 the magazine Consumer Reports tested dozens of canned and prepared foods for BPA content

The researchers reported that they found BPA in Del Monte Blue Lake green beans. High levels of BPA, according to Consumer Reports, showed up in Campbell's condensed chicken noodle soup. There were also unhealthy amounts of this chemical, the scientists believed, in Progresso vegetable soup.

Consumer Reports also claims to have found high levels of BPA in Nestlé Similac infant formula (although not in the powdered version), and in JuicyJuice products for children. The insidious and ubiquitous artificial estrogen apparently leaks from the plastics used to seal cans and make plastic bottles.

Is there reason to be alarmed the presence of this chemical in our food and in our bodies? Is there scientific proof that anyone needs to worry how bisphenol A products affect your health? The fact is, information has been hard to get, and not just because it's so easy to try to search the Internet with a misspelling like "how bisphenyl A products affect your health."

Before 2009, the chemical industry was backed up by the US federal government

Bush administration appointees concluded that they had only "some" concern about the health consequences of BPA, but that they would wait for further evidence to reach them about health risks before they issued an advisory banning the chemical. The new administration called for concrete data on the real risks of BPA in early 2009, but the results of these studies will not be available before 2011 at the earliest.

And, not surprisingly, the chemical companies don't think BPA is OK, too. The American Chemical Council pointed out that government regulators had not found BPA levels to be unsafe. Their spokesperson Steven Hentges also referred inquirers to studies that lab rats had no difficulty having baby rats when fed BPA.

If you are a lab rat, you should feel much better after this information on how bisphenol A products affect your health. But if you are human, over 200 scientific studies leave reason to be concerned:

Over 200 BPA scientific studies leave reason to be concerned

People who have the highest concentrations of BPA in their bloodstreams have higher rates of diabetes, elevated liver enzymes that cannot be traced to hepatitis, and cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

  • The studies of BPA in the reproductive health of test animals found that while the animals were able to reproduce, females experienced early puberty and males had smaller testicles.
  • The Endocrine Society reports incidents of baby boys born with malformed penises and testicles, girls beginning menstruation at the age of 6, and declining sperm counts in adult men. These phenomena are probably linked to a variety of xenoestrogens (artificial estrogens) in the environment, the Endocrine Society reports, of which BPA is only the most prominent.
  • Studies with laboratory animals also find that BPA decreases the brain's sensitivity to dopamine, a chemical associate with addiction. To get the same "high," the animal needs more of the drug, food, or activity that induces pleasure. These studies suggest that exposure to BPA could increase human food, drug, gambling, or sex addiction.
  • BPA may prevent thyroid hormone from being activated into its active form. People with "mildly" underactive thyroids tend to gain weight, but don't get treatment for thyroid problems.
  • In monkeys, exposure to BPA before birth causes male monkeys to exhibit female behaviors during adulthood.
  • Exposure to BPA in the workplace may cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in men.

City of Chicago bans plastic baby bottles

Concern about the potential effects of bisphenol A on human health has led the City of Chicago to ban plastic baby bottles and the State of Massachusetts to advise nursing mothers to avoid any contact with products that might contain BPA. Nursing mothers, pregnant women, and infants alike need to avoid any food from a can, any liquid from a plastic bottle, and anything microwaved in a plastic container.

If you can't afford to buy all your food fresh and you can't keep a cow grazing on your balcony or in your back yard, what can you do? Here are some simple ways to minimize your exposure to BPA in your daily life and take control over how bisphenol A products affect your health (which is the same information you are looking for if you searched with "how bisphenyl A products affect your health"):

  1. Don't store anything you intend to drink in a plastic bottle in the trunk of your car. Heat liberates BPA and other synthetic estrogens when your car is exposed to the sun, even on a relatively cool day.
  2. Don't microwave food in plastic containers, including the plates provided with frozen dinners. Remove the food from plastic and heat it up in a glass or porcelain container.
  3. If you have small children, make sure baby bottles and sippy cups are labeled as certified free of BPA.
  4. Wear gloves when you work with acrylic paints, epoxy glues, or sealants.
  5. Ask your dentist to use BPA (also known as BADGE) free sealants on your teeth and your children's teeth.
  6. If you live in a hot climate and carry an emergency water bottle (and if you live in the American southwest and don't carry an emergency water supply, you should), be sure your storage container is free of BPA. Stainless steel is best.
  7. Avoid canned beverages, soups, and foods. Buy frozen or "bricks" of food in aseptic containers.

  • Erickson, Britt E. (June 2, 2008). "Bisphenol A under scrutiny." Chemical and Engineering News (American Chemical Society) 86 (22): 36-39.
  • Heindel, J. Vom Saal, F. (May 2009). "Role of nutrition and environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals during the perinatal period on the aetiology of obesity". Molecular and cellular endocrinology 304 (1-2): 90-96.
  • Okada H, Tokunaga T, Liu X, Takayanagi S, Matsushima A, Shimohigashi Y (January 2008). "Direct evidence revealing structural elements essential for the high binding ability of bisphenol A to human estrogen-related receptor-gamma." Environ. Health Perspect. 116 (1): 32-8.
  • US FDA. "Update on Bisphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications: January 2010." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 15 January 2010.