THIS UBIQUITOUS PLASTIC INTERFERES with SEX DIFFERENTIATION and DAMAGES CHROMOSOMES.
Children are more susceptible to the toxic effects of contaminants than adults, and the younger they are, the more susceptible they are, right down to the growing fetus in the womb. One type of contaminant is of particular concern, both because it can cause reproductive abnormalities and because it’s ubiquitous—everywhere—and that is bisphonol-A.
Bisphenol-A is a chemical used to make plastics, including those used in some baby bottles, water bottles, microwave dishes, the lining of canned goods, the lids of jars, dental sealants and many other products. It’s beyond dispute in rodent studies that exposure to even very low amounts of bisphenol-A in the womb or during infancy can cause reproductive abnormalities and chromosomal damage that can be carried through multiple generations. Although much of the research has been done with mice, there’s a large body of indirect evidence that it can also affect larger mammals, including humans.
Bisphenol-A’s primary offense is that it’s a hormone mimic, feminizing male fetuses and masculinizing female fetuses. Bottom line, it interferes with sex differentiation in the brain, which is what makes us male or female. In rodents, even low level exposure to bisphenol-A early in life later leads to declining sperm counts, earlier onset of puberty, birth defects, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Sound familiar? It’s estimated that 95 percent of U.S. residents have measurable levels of bisphenol-A.
Bisphenol-A and Insulin Resistance
There’s also rodent research showing that exposure to bisphenol-A early in life can cause obesity later in life. Additional research showed that it creates insulin resistance, which is a precursor to obesity and diabetes. Sound familiar? The primary cause of obesity and diabetes is poor eating habits and lack of exercise, but it’s plausible that exposure to bisphenol-A could be aggravating the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the U.S.
What You Can Do to Avoid Bisphenol-A
It would probably benefit all of us to avoid bisphenol-A, but pregnant women and mothers with infants would do well to be vigilant about it. Start by avoiding canned goods. Try to avoid drinking bottled water. If you need to carry a water bottle around, put filtered water in the hard plastic kind that can be found at sporting goods stores (they’re often called event bottles). Microwave in glass—there are plenty of microwave-safe glass containers available these days.
Breastfeeding is the best possible way to avoid plastic baby bottles and plastic baby bottle liners, but if bottle feeding is necessary the first choice should be glass—just be sure to check them regularly for chips and cracks. Evenflo makes glass baby bottles.
Resources for Healthier Children
For more information about reducing the toxic burden on our children, visit the website of the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about environmental toxins that affect children's health.
I also highly recommend the book, The New Breastfeeding Diet Plan: Breakthrough Ways to Reduce Toxins and Give Your Baby the Best Start in Life by Robert Rountree, M.D. and Melissa Block, M.Ed. (McGraw Hill 2006).
The website Baby Hopes is a good source of natural pregnancy and baby products.
Alonso-Magdalena, P et al, “The estrogenic effect of bisphenol A disrupts pancreatic beta cell function in vivo and induces insulin resistance.” Environmental Health Perspectives 114(January 2006):106-112.
Hunt, PA et al, “Bisphenol A exposure causes meiotic aneuploidy in the female mouse,” Current Biology 13(April 2003):546-553.
Nielsen, JB et al, “In Vitro Percutaneous Penetration of Five Pesticides—Effects of Molecular Weight and Solubility Characteristics,” Ann. occup. Hyg., Vol. 48, No. 8, pp. 697–705, 2004.
Rubin, B.S. et al, “Evidence of altered brain sexual differentiation in mice exposed perinatally to low, environmentally relevant levels of bisphenol A,” Endocrinology 2006 Aug;147(8):3681-91.
Susiarjo, M et al, “Bisphenol A exposure in utero disrupts early oogenesis in the mouse,” PLoS Genetics 3(January 2007):e5.