A Little Plastic: What’s the Harm?
In Boys Adrift, Leonard Sax takes up a discussion of what are termed endocrine disruptors–materials (such as phthalates–you recall the BPA scare) which mimic hormones and feared to have adverse effects on developing children (yes, particularly boys). Largely the concern is that plastics such as BPA (or any plastic for that matter) have estrogenic properties which bring on early puberty in girls and arrest boys’ sexual maturation (including reduced sperm counts while a pregnant mother’s consumption of such chemicals resulted in incomplete masculinization of the child and genital deformities).
Below is a recent post from MedPage Today that reports on this.
It’s in the Can
By: Emily P. Walker | December 01, 2011
Like any reader of the news, I take an especially keen interest in a story when a headline seems personally relevant to me. For instance, a story my colleague John Gever wrote the other day, “Canned Soup Delivers High Levels of BPA,” especially piqued my interest for a few reasons.
One: I eat a lot of stuff from cans. Just this week, I’ve already eaten a can of white beans, a can of chickpeas, and a can of pears, and I’ve used canned coconut milk in a recipe. As a vegetarian, beans are part of my diet on a near-daily basis. And I don’t care what cookbooks and online recipes say — dried beans are not an “easy” alternative to canned. Any recipe that involves 24 hours of inactive prep time is not “easy.” It takes planning, and often, I’m throwing recipes together on a whim and didn’t have the foresight to soak a pot of beans overnight. So I reach for the can. I like to think I’m a healthy eater, but I wonder what effect the chemicals in a can of food will have on my body (especially because the canned soup study showed that people who ate a can of soup a day had levels of bisphenol A [BPA] in their urine that were 20 times higher than those who didn’t eat canned soup).
The second reason John’s story was particularly interesting to me is because it’s been fascinating seeing how the science on BPA has accumulated and how government officials’ views on BPA are changing. When I first started at MedPage Today in 2008, the prevailing view of the FDA was that BPA is safe. But then a panel of independent science advisers determined the FDA erred when it made that call. In 2010, the FDA announced it would devote $30 million to research the health effects of BPA exposure.
During the past few years, the research on BPA has shown that the chemical can mimic the action of female reproductive hormones and may be linked to cardiovascular disease, and just a couple of months ago, researchers found that children whose mothers had high urine levels of BPA during pregnancy were more prone to behavioral problems.
The chemical industry maintains that there isn’t sound evidence that small levels of BPA (like those found in food containers, and even paper cash register receipts) have a harmful effect on humans.
Still, limiting my canned food consumption might not be a bad idea. Better start soakin’ some beans.