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Children's Health

Plastics Chemicals May Boost Kids' Risk for Obesity, Diabetes

Studies tied phthalates, BPA to insulin resistance, higher body fat
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The study reviewed data on about 3,300 kids aged 6 to 18, and found that children with high BPA levels tend to have excessive amounts of body fat and unusually expanded waistlines.

However, in a related journal commentary, Dr. Robert Brent of Cornell University pointed out the limitations of using urine levels alone to determine the extent or impact of chemical exposure.

Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Yale School of Medicine's department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said these studies "point out the vulnerability of children to environmental chemicals. It seems the younger you look, the more things are developing and the more vulnerable they are to these type of insults."

However, Taylor added that the food wrapped in containers with phthalates and BPA likely are doing as much or more to contribute to diabetes and obesity as the chemicals themselves.

"It's probably more about the type of diet these kids are eating," Taylor said. "A move toward healthier natural food is always a good idea, not just because of the elimination of BPA and phthalates but for all the other health benefits. If we think about more common-sense eating of healthy foods that aren't packaged in a way that would introduce BPA and phthalates, we would be so much better off."

Trasande recommends that parents avoid using plastic containers with the recycling numbers 3, 6 or 7, in which phthalates or BPA are used.

"I also advise families not to microwave plastics, hand wash plastic containers, and throw away plastic containers where there is etching or other damage to them," he said.

While the new studies found associations between chemicals in plastic and insulin resistance and obesity in children, they did not establish cause-and-effect.

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