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Jury Still Out on BPA/Plastics Risk

What to Do While Scientists Study Risk From Plastic Baby Bottles, Other Sources
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Is BPA Really Risky? continued...

Currently, the EPA says that the "safe" level of BPA is set at 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. But animal studies suggest that this level of BPA has harmful effects, including genetic damage. Exactly how to translate these animal findings into human effects is a bone of contention between academic and industry scientists.

Nevertheless, BPA can flip the estrogen switches on cells at part-per-trillion concentrations -- lower concentrations than those common in the blood of human infants, children, and adults.

A panel of 38 BPA researchers recently issued a report saying they are "confident" that:

  • Low doses of BPA have biological effects.
  • BPA is everywhere -- in the water, in the air, and in the ground. Estrogen-like effects now seen in wild animals are similar to those seen in lab animals exposed to low doses of BPA.
  • BPA levels commonly seen in humans are higher than those that cause adverse effects in lab animals.
  • BPA has different effects at different stages of life.
  • BPA "reprograms" genes -- meaning that toxic effects may show up long after exposure.

The National Toxicology Program's expert panel says there's "some concern" that fetal exposure to BPA affects a baby's brain and causes later behavioral problems.

However, the panel also found:

  • "Minimal concern" that BPA affects the prostate
  • "Minimal concern" that BPA accelerates puberty
  • "Negligible concern" that BPA causes birth defects
  • "Negligible concern" that BPA causes reproductive problems in adults

The American Chemistry Council supports the panel's findings. The Environmental Working Group, a watchdog group that presses for BPA regulation, blasts the report.

What Products Contain BPA?

Canned food appears to be the main source of BPA for most people.

Last March, the Environmental Working Group reported the results of a study in which a national analytical laboratory tested 97 cans of food for BPA. The cans were purchased at supermarkets in Atlanta; Oakland, Calif.; and Clinton, Conn.

The study found that:

  • Cans of chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli had the highest BPA levels.
  • 1 in 3 cans of infant formula had BPA levels "200 times the government's traditional safe level of exposure for industrial chemicals."
  • Overall, 1 in 10 cans tested had high levels of BPA.
  • Beverage cans have fewer BPA residues; canned pasta and canned soups have the highest levels.

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