Here’s an excerpt from a recent NY Times column by Nicholas Kristof titled “Something Scary in the Pantry“:
“Your body is probably home to a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen that United States factories now use in everything from plastics to epoxies — to the tune of six pounds per American per year. That’s a lot of estrogen. More than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine, and scientists have linked it — though not conclusively — to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike.
Now it turns out it’s in our food.
Consumer Reports magazine tested an array of brand-name canned foods for a report in its December issue and found BPA in almost all of them. The magazine says that relatively high levels turned up, for example, in Progresso vegetable soup, Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup, and Del Monte Blue Lake cut green beans.
The magazine also says it found BPA in the canned liquid version of Similac Advance infant formula (but not in the powdered version) and in canned Nestlé Juicy Juice (but not in the juice boxes). The BPA in the food probably came from an interior coating used in many cans.
Should we be alarmed?
The chemical industry doesn’t think so. Steven Hentges of the American Chemistry Council dismissed the testing, noting that Americans absorb quantities of BPA at levels that government regulators have found to be safe. Mr. Hentges also pointed to a new study indicating that BPA exposure did not cause abnormalities in the reproductive health of rats.
But more than 200 other studies have shown links between low doses of BPA and adverse health effects, according to the Breast Cancer Fund, which is trying to ban the chemical from food and beverage containers.
“The vast majority of independent scientists — those not working for industry — are concerned about early-life low-dose exposures to BPA,” said Janet Gray, a Vassar College professor who is science adviser to the Breast Cancer Fund.
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Mr. Kristof elaborates further on the theme on his blog. Excerpts:
“…..As I note in the column, the evidence is not conclusive — it’s a bit like tobacco in the 1970’s, for there are hundreds of studies showing linkages with adverse health effects, and scientists understand the mechanisms for those harms, but there is still much that is not understood about what dose of BPA causes what harm at what age. For example, the chemical industry cites one recent study in which BPA did not cause harm to the reproductive health of Long-Evans rats. But that strain of rats has been found to be less susceptible to endocrine disruptors, while CD-1 mice (also used in many experiments) are more vulnerable. Are humans more like Long-Evans rats or like CD-1 mice? We don’t know. But there are so many studies showing low-dose effects on animals and humans that the precautionary principle should apply: let’s try to cut back on exposures….”
“…..Still, it’s troubling to see the recent studies showing that higher levels of BPA in the blood correlate to obesity, diabetes, miscarriages and cardiovascular problems — even in adults who have plenty of hormones in their bodies. For safety’s sake, I’m steering clear of BPA to the extent I can. The FDA has generally dropped the ball on regulation of chemicals over the years, particularly in the Bush years, but it is now reviewing BPA again and I have a bit more confidence that it will follow science today in a way that it didn’t.
The mental concept we have of environmental damage tends to be on dirty air or filthy water — things we can see. But it may be that today the most insidious damage is hormones in the environment that have profound effects on our bodies, even though they are invisible. Your thoughts?…..”