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Plastic Chemical Safety Weighed

Expert Panel Notes No Major Health Concerns About Plastic Chemical Bisphenol A

Concerns About Bisphenol A

"The main concern is that bisphenol A is an estrogen. It mimics the action of the female hormone estradiol," Soto tells WebMD.

"My lab and other labs have found that bisphenol A causes diverse effects, and to me, the most critical ones are those that happen in fetal life where all these organs are being formed," says Soto.

Marcus agrees, noting that "the developing embryo is generally more vulnerable to the effects of exposures than adults."

Bisphenol A "has been shown to cause chromosomal abnormalities in mice and to cause early pubertal development in rodents," says Marcus.

Some research suggests that bisphenol A may have effects that span more than one generation, according to Soto and Marcus.

"It seems there is mounting evidence that bisphenol A would produce transgenerational effects," says Soto.

However, there have been "virtually no" studies of bisphenol A's direct effects in humans, says Marcus.

Bisphenol A: What to Do?

"What we know is that there a lot of harmful effects in animals and the exposure is ubiquitous. We don't know whether or not exposure is harmful to humans," says Marcus.

"However, if you would like to reduce exposure, there are a few things that you can do," Marcus notes.

Her suggestions: "You can refrain from heating foods in plastic containers and you can refrain from putting plastic containers in the dishwasher. Harsh alkaline detergents do increase the leaching of bisphenol A from polycarbonate containers."

Soto also has some ideas about reducing bisphenol A exposure.

"I think if I had a baby, I would use baby bottles that do not contain bisphenol A," Soto says. "For microwaved food, you can use ceramic dishes," she adds.

Still, people who take those steps wouldn't know the extent to which it reduces their overall exposure to bisphenol A, Soto notes.

"This is something that you cannot address only as an individual," says Soto. "I think that it is up to citizens to demand that the government pursues a policy that protects and preserves public health," she says.

Industry Responds

Hentges says the expert panel looked at "a lot" of data on bisphenol A.

"What they found, overall, is that human exposure to bisphenol A is quite low. It's extremely low, well below levels that could be harmful," says Hentges.

"Looking at their overall conclusions, they did not find any high-level health concerns," says Hentges. "The handful of concerns that they identified were all flagged as 'minimal' or 'negligible' with one exception, which was flagged as 'some' concern, but that was primarily just an indication that they think additional research in that area might be helpful."

Hentges says that bisphenol A leaching out of polycarbonate food containers has been studied "many, many times."

"We do know quite well what kind of level could come out of those containers, and that level is extremely low," he says, adding that studies have shown no reason to be concerned about bisphenol A levels that would come out of those containers "under any typical or expected use."

As for switching to a different type of baby bottle, "the scientific conclusions don't support the need to use a different product. People have choices, though," says Hentges.

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