plastic and your kids’ food

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is widely used in infant and water bottles and in plastic food packaging, and is suspected to be an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). EDCs can cause changes in the endocrine system with long-term health implications. A review by John D. Meeker, ScD in The Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine examines the impact of EDCs on children’s health. Meeker notes that children are particularly vulnerable to environmental toxins for several reasons, including greater intake of water and food per kilogram of body weight than adults. Human studies demonstrate effects of BPA on behavior and executive function in children and on anogenital distance in boys.

So what is a concerned parent to do? The use of products labeled “BPA-free” is a first step. However, labeling of products containing potential EDCs is largely based on marketing purposes and is not generally required by law. In fact, Meeker states, U.S regulations controlling chemical risks are considered “outdated and ineffective.”

A 2010 Silent Spring Institute study provided a three-day intervention in which participants ate only foods prepared by a caterer that took deliberate precautions to eliminate food contact with plastic. The intervention period demonstrated a significant reduction in participants’ urinary BPA concentrations compared to pre- and post-intervention. Such a drastic change in habits may not be a feasible goal for most American families, but it does suggest that, in the absence of laws protecting consumers, reasonable effort to reduce use of plastic food packaging may diminish exposure to BPA.

Suspected EDCs such as BPA are being studied but are not currently being controlled in consumer products. Therefore it is prudent to attempt to minimize exposure at an individual level. Parents and healthcare providers can download guides to protecting kids from environmental hazards at the Physicians for Social Responsibility website.

Meeker JD. Exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors and child development. The Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 2012; 166(10):952-958.
Braun JM, Kalkbrenner AE, Calafat AM, et al. Impact of early-life bisphenol A exposure on behavior and executive function in children. Pediatrics 2011; 128(5): 873 -882.
Miao M, Yuan W, He Y, Zhou Z, Wang J, Gao E, Li G and Li DK. In utero exposure to bisphenol-A and anogenital distance of male offspring. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology 2011, 91: 867–872.
Rudel RA, Gray JM, Engel CL, et al. Food packaging and bisphenol A and bis(2-Ethyhexl)Phthalate exposure: findings from a dietary intervention. Environmental Health Perspectives 2011; 119: 914-920.

Categories: BPA, plastic

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