|PLASTIC IS GOOD FOR YOU?|
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must watch classic movies. There's a great scene in "The Graduate" where Dustin Hoffman's character is regaled with the big tip that the future is "plastics, plastics". Apparently the FDA has taken this advice to heart. Deciding to wait until enough babies (and the rest of us) are harmed by bisphenol A to do anything about it, "Right now, our tentative conclusion is that it's safe, so we're not recommending any change in habits," said Laura Tarantino, head of the FDA's office of food additive safety.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the hardened plastics that make up such a wide range of consumer goods. It is found in plastic baby bottles, the lining of metal cans, compact discs, eyeglass lenses, and other food packaging products. It's chemical structure and action mimics the hormone estrogen, and animal studies have linked it with breast, prostate and reproductive system problems and some cancers.
More than 90% of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies, but the FDA says the levels of exposure are too low to pose a health risk, even for infants and children. With the record of industry experts recycling themselves into jobs with the companies they report on, would you bet your health on these assurances? Other scientists have shown BPA to affect the human body even at very low levels.
On Sept. 16, 2008 a study released by JAMA suggested a new concern about BPA. Using a health survey of nearly 1,500 adults, the study found that those exposed to higher amounts of BPA were more likely to report having heart disease and diabetes. As usual, a call for more studies was issued instead of taking action.
In this study, researchers from Britain and the University of Iowa examined a U.S. government health survey of 1,455 American adults who gave urine samples in 2003-04 and reported whether they had any of several common diseases. Participants were divided into four groups based on BPA urine amounts; more than 90% had detectable BPA in their urine.
Out of this group, a total of 79 had heart attacks, chest pain or other types of cardiovascular disease and 136 had diabetes. There were more than twice as many people with heart disease or diabetes in the highest BPA group than in the lowest BPA group. No one in this study had BPA urine amounts any higher than what the FDA is calling 'safe'.
Dr. Ana Soto of Tufts University said the study raises enough concerns to warrant government action to limit BPA exposure. "We shouldn't wait until further studies are done in order to act in protecting humans," said Soto, who has called for more restrictions in the past.
An earlier lab experiment with human fat tissue found that BPA could interfere with a hormone involved in protecting against diabetes, heart disease and obesity. That study appeared online in the August 2008 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
Toxicology experts from another government agency have studied BPA and recently completed their own report. They said there was "some concern" about possible effects on the brain in fetuses, infants and children.
Several states are considering restricting BPA use, some manufacturers have begun promoting BPA-free baby bottles, and some stores are phasing out baby products containing the chemical. Canada's government has proposed banning the sale of baby bottles with BPA as a precaution.
One of the simplest ways to eliminate BPA from your diet is to avoid plastic containers that have the recycling #7 as many of those contain BPA. You especially don't want to heat up any plastic #7 container, as heat helps to release the chemical. If you avoid canned foods then there will be no exposure via that route either.
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