In 2008, the potential health risks of the Bisphenol A (or BPA,) a chemical which is commonly found in plastic, made headlines. Parents were alarmed, pediatricians bombarded with questions, and stores completely sold-out of BPA-free bottles and sippy cups.
What’ the situation now? Have plastic manufacturers changed their practices, and how careful should a parent be when it comes to plastics and BPA? What follows are some of the most recent findings and information about possible BPA risks.
A Plastic Hardener
Plastics have been hardened by the addition of a chemical called BPA for more than 40 years. It's everywhere. It's in medical devices, compact discs, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks and many other products.
It’s in Almost Everyone
More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. We get most of it by eating foods that have been in containers made with BPA. It's also possible to pick up BPA through air, dust, and water.
The Past Proliferation of BPA
BPA at one time, was a common component used in baby bottles, sippy cups, baby formula cans, and other products for babies and young children. The outbreak of controversy changed that. Now, the six major companies that make baby bottles and cups for infants have stopped using BPA in the products they sell in the U.S. Many manufacturers of infant formula have stopped using BPA in their cans as well. According to a statement made by the U.S. Department of Health, toys generally don't contain BPA. While the hard outer shields of some pacifiers still have BPA, the nipple that the baby sucks on does not.
Can BPA adversely affect the body? Here are some areas of concern:
• Hormone levels. It’s a prevalent belief among experts that BPA could theoretically act like a hormone in the body, disrupting normal hormone levels and development in fetuses, babies, and children. Animal studies have proven to have mixed results.
• Brain and behavior problems. The National Toxicology Program at the FDA expressed concern about BPA’s possible effects on the brain and behavior of infants and young children after a careful review of all evidence..
• Cancer. Some animal studies have shown a possible link between BPA exposure and a later increased risk of developing cancer.
• Heart problems. Two different studies have found that adults showing the highest levels of BPA in their bodies seem to have a greater incidence of heart problems. However, the higher incidence is not definitively related to BPA.
• Other conditions. Some experts have looked into a connection between BPA exposure and many conditions -- obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and others. The evidence isn't strong enough to show a link.
• Increased risk to children. Some studies point to possible effects from BPA being most pronounced in infants and young children, as their bodies are still developing and are less efficient at eliminating substances from their systems.
Although this list of possible BPA risks is frightening, it’s important to understand that nothing has been firmly established. The concern to date about BPA risks stems primarily from studies in animals.