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Autism Coach

Bisphenol A - A Health Hazard Wrapped in Plastic


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October 20, 2008.  A man-made compound contained in thousands of plastic products in the U.S., bisphenol A, has been declared toxic and banned from all products in Canada.  Unlike Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ignored the same data presented to them September by an independent panel of scientists.  In allowing bisphenol A to be continue to be used in the U.S., the special-interest packed FDA panel ruled against protecting the nation's health despite the scientists' report citing hundreds of studies providing evidence that bisphenol is hazardous to our health.  The Union of Concerned Scientists criticized the agency saying, "We're concerned that the FDA is basing its conclusion on two studies while downplaying the results of hundreds of other studies...This appears to be a case of cherry-picking data with potentially high cost to human health."  

Young children are most effected by bisphenol A, which leaches out of baby bottles.  This substance was found in the urine gof 93% of children tested in 2003-2004.  Infants fed with liquid formula from polycarbonate bottles can consume up to 13 micrograms of bisphenol A per kg of body weight per day.  Naturally as children within the autism spectrum are more vulnerable to environmental pollutants, parents of our kids may wish to be especially careful  Many of our kids don't tolerate phenols well, which means that even children on a low-phenol diet are being exposed to man-made phenols through plastics. 

Products bisphenol A are found thousands of products, including: baby bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, hard plastic polycarbonate sports bottles, water jugs, and in the plastic linings of metal cans (such as carbonated drinks and canned vegetables). 

If you wish to eliminate exposure to bisphenols in plastic containers stamped with the required plastic label, don't buy or use any plastic containing Type 7 or Type 3 plastics, as these numbered plastics contain bisphenols:  

  or

Suspected of being a health hazard since the 1930's, bisphenol A mimics the female hormone, estrogen. Hundreds of studies have indicated that it is a health hazard - including a neurotoxin and a carcinogen.  These studies also indicate that Bisphenol A indicate may contribute to feminization of boys, early puberty in girls, obesity, and diabetes.  Not something that's worth using for convenience sake, to say the least!  

In 1997, adverse effects of low doses on laboratory animals were first reported.  Most recently, a study by the Yale School of Medicine demonstrated that adverse neurological effects occur in non-human primates regularly exposed to bisphenol A at levels equal to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) maximum safe dose of 50 micrograms per kilogram per day. This research found a connection between bisphenol A and interference with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning and mood.

In 2007, a consensus statement by 38 experts on bisphenol A concluded that average levels in people are above those that cause harm to animals in laboratory experiments, and a panel convened by the U.S. National Institutes of Health determined that there was "some concern" about BPA's effects on fetal and infant brain development and behavior. A 2008 report by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) agreed with the panel, expressing "some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A," and "minimal concern for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A."

The first study of bisphenol A's effects on humans was published in September 2008 by Iain Lang and colleagues in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. The study of almost 1,500 people assessed exposure to bisphenol A by looking at levels of the chemical in urine. The authors found that high bisphenol A levels were significantly associated with heart disease, diabetes, and abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes. An editorial in the same issue notes that while this preliminary study needs to be confirmed there are similar effects in animal studies. This study, along with data presented by Health Canada was presented to an FDA panel in September, 2008.  Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the FDA panel reached the conclusion that bisphenol A is still safe.  The editorial published along with Lang study's in the Journal of the American Medical Association criticized the FDA's assessment - stating they were using outdated and inaccurate studies mostly funded by the chemical industry to contradict more recent, independent, scientifically valid research.

I suspect the only way to quickly overturn the FDA's ruling, at least while politicians and their appointees only serve the rich, is by hitting the businesses that pay the lobbyists in their pocketbooks through a boycott.  I suggest that members of the autism community consider from refraining from using  products containing bisphenols - it will be good for your family's health and have a political impact.  I, for one, buy fresh and frozen produce as opposed to canned produce and will be largely eliminating use of canned goods.  

Note:  If you do switch over to glass containers, make sure they are lead free .  Try to use glass products made in the U.S. T he FDA doesn't regulate the heavy metal content of imported dishes which may contain high levels of lead and cadmium.  Dishes made in China are particularly at risk.  You can obtain a lead paint test strip kit from your hardware store or from osha.gov and use it to test your dishes. If you see any trace of lead, it would be good to switch.  

As a new president is about to set a new direction in Washington, I urge everyone to contact their representatives to give  environmental and health issues top priority.  Also I would urge them to remove political appointees from the payroll who have worked or lobbied for the businesses these agencies are supposed to regulate - like  the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coop.  We need qualified, respected scientists who are competent to evaluate scientific data and make policy decisions to improve the quality of our nation's soil, food, drink, water, and air. There are over 20,000 man-made chemicals in our environment that cross-react with each other in unknown ways.  There is no requirement by the FDA or the EPA that these chemicals are proven safe before being unleashed into our environment. 

Genetically engineered foods also fall into the category of items that have studies questioning their safety while being released willy-nilly into our food supply.  As of this year granulated sugar from genetically modified "Roundup Ready" sugar beets is an unwelcome new addition to our food supply.  Naturally, a large number of manufactured products containing sugar, such as candy and soft drinks.  I have received several anecdotal reports from parents that their children are adversely affected by genetically engineered foods.  I am going to be boycotting sugar and products containing from sugar beets.  I will buy only sugar from sugar cane and that explicitly state their sugar is from cane sugar.  This is unfortunate, because my own home state, Michigan, grows a considerable amount sugar beets, and I want to support the ailing Michigan economy.  All of this is food for thought and deserves to have a high profile in in our nation's policy making decisions over the coming four years.  I urge each and every person who is able to, whether individually or through autism organizations, to demand from our government not only immunization safety but for a healthier and safer environment and food supply for our children and for future generations.