BPA In The News
BPA-Free Products Still Contain Bisphenols of Equal Toxicity
By Dr. Mercola
Just when you thought you’d learned everything there was to learn about how to avoid bisphenol-A (BPA), the endocrine-disrupting plastics chemical, new research shows that there’s more hormone-disrupting bisphenols around you than you probably thought.
In answer to consumers’ demands to drop BPA from products, many manufacturers have simply switched to using a different—but equally toxic and perhaps even more toxic—chemical called bisphenol-S (BPS).
It May be BPA-Free, But What About BPS?
BPA, an estrogenic plastic by-product used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics, can leach into food or drinks from the plastic containers holding them. BPA has been identified as an estrogen-mimicking compound since the 1930s, and is known to be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, infants and children. In fact, in the early 1930s BPA was used as an artificial estrogen to not only fatten poultry and cattle, but as a form of estrogen replacement therapy for women of the times. It was only in the 1940s that Bayer and General Electric used BPA to harden polycarbonate plastics and make epoxy resin.
It has since become one of the world’s highest production volume chemicals and has been widely reported in the media as being a suspected disruptor of your body’s hormones.
Canada, in September 2010, declared BPA as a toxic substance, but to date no other country has followed suit, although BPA has been banned in baby bottles in Europe and the US. As a result of the widespread consumer backlash, however, many companies have rolled out “BPA-free” plastic products, ranging from bottles and sippy cups to reusable water bottles, meant to appeal to those health-conscious consumers looking to avoid toxins.
Unfortunately, this may be just a ruse, as studies now show another bisphenol, bisphenol-S (BPS), is now showing up in human urine concentrations at levels similar to those of BPA.i This suggests that many manufacturers are simply swapping one bisphenol for another.
BPS May be Less Known, But That Doesn’t Make it Less Toxic
Similar to the way food manufacturers label a bag of gummy bears as “fat-free,” implying it’s good for you while staying silent about the massive amounts of sugar they contain, plastics manufacturers can legally make it appear their products are safe by labeling them BPA-free, even though they may contain BPS, or another similar toxic chemical, that they don’t mention. More corporate lies of omission that can and do hurt your health.
In the case of BPS, there’s reason to believe it is just as dangerous to human health, and possibly more so, than BPA, although the research is not nearly as abundant just yet. Writing in the journal Toxicology In Vitro, researchers stated:ii
“In 2011, the European Commission has restricted the use of Bisphenol A in plastic infant feeding bottles. In a response to this restriction, Bisphenol S is now often used as a component of plastic substitutes for the production of babybottles. One of the major concerns leading to the restriction of Bisphenol A was its weak estrogenic activity. By using two highly standardised transactivation assays, we could demonstrate that the estrogenic activity of Bisphenol A and Bisphenol S is of a comparable potency.”
Not only does BPS appear to have similar hormone-mimicking characteristics to BPA, but research suggests it is actually significantly less biodegradable, and more heat-stable and photo-resistant, than BPA. GreenMedInfo reports:
“… while regulators wait for manufacturers who promote their products with “BPA-Free!” stickers at the same moment that they infuse them with BPS to voluntarily reformulate,there isevidence now that BPS may actually have worse effects to environmental and human health, alike..
“… BPS’ relative inability to biodegrade indicates: 1) once it is absorbed into the human body, it may accumulate there for longer periods of time. 2) it is more likely to persist in the environment, making external exposures to it, and its many metabolites, much more likely than the faster degrading BPA. In other words, its potential to do harm will worsen along the axis of time, not lessen, which is a common argument made for the purported “safety” of BPA.”
Just How Many Chemicals are Lurking in Your BPA-Free Plastic?
You would think labeling a product “BPA-Free” would be some measure of protection against ingesting toxic plastic by-products, but it turns out that tests on plastics using this label have not been conducted under real-world conditions like running the plastics through a dishwasher or heating them in a microwave.
In a study meant to simulate “real-world” use, 95 percent of all plastic products tested positive for estrogenic activity, meaning they can still disrupt your hormones even if they carry a BPA-free label. Even more disconcerting is the finding that BPA-free plastics in some cases leached more BPA than the non-BPA free plastics.iii
In some cases, instead of actually removing BPA from their products, manufacturers are only taking out a percentage of it, which means we’re still being exposed to it, only now in undisclosed amounts. The truth is there’s an alphabet soup of toxic chemicals in almost everything you come in contact with, from plastics to PVC water lines to canned goods, which are lined with BPA-containing plastic. Thermal receipt paper, all world paper currency and those sealants your dentists want to put on your and your children’s teeth also are primary sources of BPA exposure.
But again, BPA is not the only culprit; it’s simply the most highly publicized one. There’s also Bisphenol AB and AF, Bisphenol B and BP, Bisphenol C, Bisphenol E, F, G, M, S, P, PH, TMC and, yes, there’s even a Bisphenol Z. Any one of these can be in your BPA-free baby bottle or sippy cup, unfortunately.
Who’s Minding the “BPA-Free” Store?
Now that BPA-free products are beginning to flood the market, you may be interested to know that we actually know relatively little about what’s really in these new plastics, and what little we do know comes right from the manufacturers. The Atlantic reported:iv
” … because the U.S. system of regulating chemicals relies primarily on information supplied by a material’s manufacturer, we know relatively little about these new plastics.
“… Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the U.S. law that regulates chemicals in commerce, it’s entirely permissible to launch a new material into high-volume production without disclosing its precise chemical identity or any information about its toxicity. This makes it impossible for the public to assess product safety independently of manufacturer claims. And currently, despite EPA and FDA policies that support “safe” alternatives to a chemical of concern like BPA, neither federal agency conducts safety testing of new materials destined for consumer products before they come on the market.”
So it’s very much an anything goes attitude when it comes to the chemicals used in countless consumer products. Until the system changes – if the system changes – your safest bet is to avoid plastic products as much as possible.
Glass is One of the Best Alternatives
If you’re interested in avoiding any number of chemical toxins leaching into your food and beverages, choose glass over plastic, especially when it comes to products that will come into contact with food or beverages, or those intended for pregnant women, infants and children. This applies to canned goods as well, which are a major source of BPA (and possibly other chemicals) exposure, so whenever you can, choose jarred goods over canned goods, or opt for fresh instead. Another good idea is to ditch plastic teething toys for your little ones and choose natural wood or fabric varieties instead.
To be fair, you probably can no longer completely eliminate your exposure to BPA, BPS and similar toxins (since they’re likely in our air, water, and food, too) but you can certainly reduce your exposure dramatically by making informed choices like those described above.
Low amount of BPA can increase cardiac risk by 45%, study finds
Martin Mittelstaedt Environment Reporter
Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010
Elevated exposure to bisphenol A has been linked in a new study to a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the second time researchers have made a connection between the widely used plastic-making compound and heart ailments.The finding, released Tuesday, is likely to add to the controversy over the risks to adults of bisphenol A, which has been designated as a toxic compound by Health Canada and removed from plastic baby bottles as a safety precaution, but is still used as a liner inside almost all food and beverage cans sold in Canada.
According to the new research, 60-year-old American males with the highest amounts of bisphenol A in their urine had about a 45 per cent greater risk of cardiovascular disease than men the same age with lower exposures, confirming the results of a previous study on the topic released in 2008 and based on a different sample of people. That earlier study was the first large medical review to show human health effects from BPA, as the chemical is also known, and could have been a fluke. Up until now, most research linking the chemical to harm has been done on laboratory animals, where it has been associated with such conditions as breast cancer and earlier sexual maturity in females.
The second finding of a heart-disease connection “underlines the question mark over the human health safety of BPA; it means that [earlier] association wasn’t just a one-off thing,” says David Melzer, an epidemiologist at Peninsula Medical School in Britain and a member of the team that conducted both studies. The research has renewed calls for Health Canada to cut adult exposure to bisphenol A by banning the compound from food and beverage cans, which are thought to be the main place people pick up residues of the chemical. “The evidence is now overwhelming that human exposure to bisphenol A is at the root of significant human disease, and that one of the most important things we could do for public health is to reduce human exposure to this chemical,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, an advocacy group.
Health Canada said in an e-mailed statement that it hadn’t had a chance to review the new study, but it “continues to monitor new scientific evidence … and will take further action to protect the health of Canadians, if necessary.” While Health Canada has previously expressed concerns that infants might be getting too much of the chemical, it has said adult exposures were not a health threat.
BPA is a man-made compound not found in nature, and able to mimic estrogen, which creates worries that exposure to it amounts to an extra dollop of the female hormone. BPA is one of the largest-volume manufactured chemicals in the world, used in such everyday products as polycarbonate plastic water jugs, the plastic-like liners on the insides of tin cans, and some types of carbonless cash-register receipts, among other items. Traces of BPA leak from consumer products, and that’s the reason biomonitoring surveys in the U.S. have found that more than 90 per cent of the population carries detectible levels of it. Although the amounts in canned foods and drinks are minuscule – typically only a few parts per billion – this is still about 1,000 times the natural concentration of estrogen in people over all.
While the new study found an association between higher-than-average BPA levels and heart disease, Dr. Melzer cautioned that the research, published in the open-access journal PLoS One, doesn’t prove the chemical causes heart-related ailments. Such definitive proof would require dosing humans in clinical trials to observe heart-disease rates, something that wouldn’t be allowed for ethical reasons. While BPA may be an additional risk factor for heart problems, Dr. Melzer recommended that people continue to be mindful of more proven steps to reduce risks, such as quitting smoking and monitoring cholesterol.
In the study, researchers compared reports of cardiovascular disease among about 1,500 people who participated during 2005 and 2006 in the most recent BPA biomonitoring survey funded by the U.S. government. The United States is the only country to have conducted and released results of its two population-based surveys for BPA. The newest survey found average levels of the chemical at 3.3 parts per billion, a drop of about 30 per cent from the only previous monitoring, done in 2003 to 2004. It is not known why BPA levels fell over the period, but Dr. Melzer speculated it might be due to worried manufacturers removing the chemical from some uses that contact food. Research based on the first survey also linked BPA to adult-onset diabetes, an association that was weaker in the second batch of people, possibly due to the decline in bisphenol A levels.
Statistics Canada has taken BPA samples in about 5,000 people, the largest such biomonitoring effort in the world. It expects to report results this summer, which will allow researchers to check whether the association with heart disease is occurring in Canadians. The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group representing BPA manufacturers, criticized the study and defended the safety of the chemical, which has been approved for use by regulatory bodies. “The study itself does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between BPA exposure and heart disease,” commented Steven Hentges, a spokesman for the group.
Yale study details how and why of BPA’s dangers
Published: Tuesday, March 9, 2010
By Ed Stannard, Register Metro Editor
NEW HAVEN – Exposing a female fetus to a chemical found in plastics causes permanent changes in a daughter’s uterus that might result in cancer – and a research team led by a Yale doctor has figured out why.
Bisphenol A is commonly found in plastics (those with a “7” code on the bottom), in the lining of aluminum cans and in dental sealants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about potential effects of BPA on the brain and reproductive organs, though the link is not definitive.
Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility section of the Yale School of Medicine, said even brief exposure to BPA in the uterus causes permanent damage.
“We already know that mice that are exposed to BPA already have a higher risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer and infertility,” he said.
In this study, one group of mice was exposed to BPA as fetuses and compared to a control group to see how much the DNA in the uterus had been modified. The findings, Taylor said, reveal that BPA strips off a part of the DNA, which permanently alters the genetic structure.
“It chemically modifies the DNA by removing methyl groups from the DNA backbone and that makes the DNA more accessible,” he said. The genes then become permanently altered to be supersensitive to estrogen, which can lead to cancer and other consequences.
He said the damage might occur in females after birth as well.
“It’s not as clear,” he said. “It very well may be. I think that’s still more controversial. I think pregnancy is the more dangerous time.”
Taylor said the effect of BPA is reminiscent of the problems with DES (diethylstilbestrol), which was prescribed to women from 1938 to 1971 to prevent miscarriages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DES was linked to a rare form of vaginal cancer.
“Now it looks like (as they grow older) those women who were exposed as a fetus have a higher risk of breast cancer,” Taylor said. He also is studying a potential link between BPA and breast cancer.
Taylor said it’s a good idea for women who may become pregnant to avoid BPA, especially products that are brand new and unwashed or old and cracked. Plastics with BPA shouldn’t be microwaved, he said.
Environmental groups also have called for BPA to be removed from consumer products; some companies have begun manufacturing BPA-free items, such as water bottles.
“I always tell my patients, as a physician as well as a scientist … to me it’s an easy decision. There’s so much benefit of eating fresh vegetables instead of (eating) out of a can,” he said.
The new findings were reported in the March issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Toxic chemical still found in ‘BPA-free’ bottles: Health Canada
By Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News ServiceJuly 30, 2009
Health Canada scientists have found bisphenol A leaching into the liquid of plastic baby bottles marketed to parents as being free of the toxic chemical. The study says “traces” of the toxin were found in “BPA-free” bottles while internal correspondence between a department official and the lead scientist went further, characterizing the amounts in two brands as “high readings.”
OTTAWA – Health Canada scientists have found bisphenol A leaching into the liquid of plastic baby bottles marketed to parents as being free of the toxic chemical.
The study says “traces” of the toxin were found in “BPA-free” bottles while internal correspondence between a department official and the lead scientist went further, characterizing the amounts in two brands as “high readings.”
Manufacturers of non-polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, however, were quick to challenge the “shocking” results, saying there must be a problem with the way the agency conducted the research.
Government scientists conducted the tests on non-polycarbonate bottles last year after Health Canada announced an imminent ban on polycarbonate plastic baby bottles.
By then, the market had already been flooded with “BPA-free” alternatives made of substitute plastics without any bisphenol A, which were pitched as an option for parents concerned about the health risks associated with the newly labelled toxin.
Bisphenol A, a hormone disrupter that can cause reproductive damage and may lead to prostate and breast cancer in adulthood, is used as a building block in polycarbonate plastic, but not in the substitutes, such as polypropylene.
The test results surprised Health Canada scientists involved, according to records released to Canwest News Service under the Access to Information Act.
“This bottle is labelled polypropylene which should contain no BPA,” the lead scientist wrote to a colleague, recommending another analysis be done to “verify the claim” and “check more samples.”
The brand mentioned in the correspondence is blacked out on the grounds that the information could result in financial loss or prejudice the competitive advantage of a company.
In separate correspondence, a Health Canada official wrote to the scientist – under the subject heading “Migration of Bisphenol A from ‘BPA Free’ Baby Bottles and Liners” – to thank him for other results.
“We would definitely like to do a material characterization for the two brands with high readings and would also like to test the other brands too at the same time.”
The records show Health Canada tested about nine different brands of baby bottles using non-polycarbonate plastic for possible leaching of BPA, chosen because they’re made with a type of plastic that does not use the chemical as a building block.
In a recently published summary of the test results, researchers suggest the “traces of BPA found to migrate from these bottles could be artifacts of the manufacturing process.”
And since these “BPA-free” bottles leached less than polycarbonate plastic bottles under conditions designed to simulate repeated normal use, the government researchers concluded these bottles made of polysulfone, polystyrene or polypropylene (non-PC) are a “reasonable alternative” to the banned polycarbonate (PC) bottles.
“The average BPA concentration in non-PC baby bottles after 10 days at high temperature (60 C) was similar to the levels found in PC bottles after 24 hours at 40 C. This is a good indication that non-PC baby bottles may be considered as appropriate alternatives to PC bottles, in order to minimize exposure BPA from PC-plastic baby bottles.”
University of Missouri’s Frederick vom Saal, a leading researcher into bisphenol A and other endocrine disrupters, said Health Canada’s test results are a “wake-up” call for bottle manufacturers and consumers.
“This really is a truly ubiquitous chemical. It’s very sticky. It’s on dust, it’s on everything. It is possible at very, very small amounts that you could maybe detect it in something, but most of these assays are not sensitive enough to pick up a hitchhiker,” he said.
“You’re picking it up because it’s actually a component of the plastic that it’s in, and that’s a little unnerving to find that people are reporting this coming out of other plastic products like polypropylene.”
And even if trace amounts can be explained away as a result of environmental contamination, companies need to revisit their manufacturing processes, said vom Saal.
Leading manufacturers of non-polycarbonate plastic baby bottles said there’s no way their bottles leach any amount of bisphenol A, even in trace amounts.
“We have not only three major global testing labs that test our products, but we also do biologic testing on our bottles, and the biologic type of testing is even more sensitive than anything that Health Canada could ever pull off, and it would pick up anything that even behaved like BPA,” said Kevin Brodwick, founder and president of thinkbaby, whose products are made with medical-grade plastic specifically formulated to be free of bisphenol A, PVC, nitrosamines, phthalates, lead, melamine and biologically toxic chemicals.
Test results, conducted at least every quarter, consistently show “zero, complete non-detect for BPA,” said Brodwick.
“It sounds more like Health Canada has an issue of their equipment not being clean.”
BornFree Canada president Tony Ferraro echoed this sentiment, saying several independent tests have all found “no detection” of the chemical in his company’s bottles.
“It is extremely difficult to comprehend otherwise” because bisphenol A is not contained or added to the resin or additives during the manufacturing practice,” said Ferraro. “I can conclude with 100 per cent accuracy and confidence that any possibility of trace amounts of bisphenol A in BornFree products is unlikely and impossible.”
Corina Crawley, meanwhile, wants Health Canada to fully release the study’s details, including brands and methodology.
The Ottawa mother sought out BPA-free bottles when her son was born two years ago, expecting all products to be “100 per cent free” of the chemical.
She said details should be released “for the public to decide.”
“As a parent, there are risks associated with BPA, but I don’t know anything about the science of trace amounts,” said Crawley. “What are the amounts that matter?”
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Harvard study backs bottle concern
Says plastic used leaches bisphenol A
By Beth Daley
Globe Staff / May 22, 2009
A Harvard study released yesterday supports what many public health specialists have long assumed: Hard plastic drinking bottles containing bisphenol A are leaching notable amounts of the controversial chemical into people’s bodies.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who drank for a week from the clear plastic polycarbonate bottles increased concentrations of bisphenol A – or BPA – in their urine by 69 percent.
The study is the first to definitively show that drinking from BPA bottles increases the levels of the chemical in urine, researchers said. It was published on the website of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
BPA is used in hundreds of everyday products. It is used to make reusable, hard plastic bottles more durable and to help prevent corrosion in canned goods such as soup and infant formula.
“If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher,” said Karin B. Michels, senior author of the report and associate professor at the School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. “This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA’s endocrine-disrupting potential,” she said.
Canada banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in 2008, and Massachusetts health officials are now weighing whether to warn pregnant women and young children to avoid food, drinks, and other items containing the chemical.
Numerous animal studies in recent years suggest that low levels of BPA might cause developmental problems in fetuses and young children and other ill effects. The health effects on adults are not well understood although a recent large human study linked BPA concentrations in people’s urine to an increased prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity.
The Food and Drug Administration has said that products containing BPA are safe and that exposure levels, including those for infants and children, are below those that would affect health. But the FDA’s own scientific advisory board criticized agency officials for relying on industry-funded studies to declare the chemical safe.
Michael L. Herndon, an FDA spokesman, said in e-mail to the Globe yesterday that newly appointed chief scientist Jesse Goodman will “provide new leadership and take a fresh look at this important issue from a scientific and policy position, incorporating emerging science and appropriate input from both inside and outside the agency.”
Yesterday, an official with the American Chemistry Council discounted any suggestion that the Harvard study underscores a health risk.
In an e-mail, Steven G. Hentges said the study shows that exposure to bisphenol A from use of the bottles is “extremely low” and below the mean BPA amounts reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the US population, “indicating that even exclusive use of polycarbonate bottles does not lead to unusually high levels of bisphenol A in the urine.”
The Harvard study was sparked by a discussion in Michels’s class after she warned students who regularly swigged water from hard plastic bottles that they might want to limit their BPA exposure. The students countered by asking how much BPA they were getting from the bottles – and soon, a study was born.
Led by Jenny Carwile, a Harvard School of Public Health doctoral student, 77 Harvard students in the study drank all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles for a week to wash BPA out of their bodies and minimize exposure. Most BPA is flushed from people’s bodies within a matter of hours. During that week, the students gave urine samples.
Then the students were given two refillable polycarbonate bottles made with BPA to drink all cold beverages from for one week. Urine samples taken over that week showed the students’ BPA levels spiked the second week to levels normally found in the general population. Because the students did nothing different in their schedules other than drink from the BPA bottles, the researchers determined their urine concentrations largely came from the bottles.
“While previous students have demonstrated that BPA is linked to adverse health effects, this study fills in a missing piece of the puzzle – whether or not polycarbonate plastic bottles are an important contributor to the amount of BPA in the body,” said Carwile.
Stainless Steel Baby Bottles Are the Best Alternative to Plastic
April 06, 2009 by
Even though they have been out and about for some time now, not as many mothers are aware of stainless steel baby bottles as they should be. While at first I saw nothing wrong with feeding my babies with plastic bottles, all of the news and research that was surfacing about the dangers of chemicals in plastic alarmed me. That was the turning point for me and that is when I started looking for alternative bay bottles.
But just what is it about the plastic baby bottles that could be so dangerous to your precious little one? The harmful chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is found within a lot of the plastic baby products that are sold. Everything from the mattress liner to the baby bottle, there is a good chance your baby is coming into an extremely harmful chemical. It is so harmful in fact that the Canadian government placed a ban on the use of BPA in baby bottles sold within their country. But what is America doing? The government is doing a lot of things, but nothing about the use of BPA in baby bottles.
Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R’ Us has reported that they would be phasing out the products for baby feeding that contain BPA. This means that I can still find unsafe plastic baby bottles being sold. So what about alternative baby bottles? When I started searching I found that I had two options. There are the glass baby bottles and then there are the stainless steel baby bottles. At first I did not like the idea of the stainless steel baby bottles and preferred the idea of the glass. In my mind, glass was safer in terms of possible chemicals and poisoning.
While I found that glass is in fact a great alternative to the plastic bottles, I learned that stainless steel baby bottles were just as safe as any other alternative baby bottles. The difference between the two is that the glass could harm the baby in ways the plastic or stainless steel baby bottles could not. As my baby started to carry around bottles, there seemed to be an endless amount of bottles hitting the ground. Imagine if one of those glass bottles broke and the harm that could be done to the baby.
This is why I decided to stick with the stainless steel baby bottles. They are just as earth friendly and baby friendly as glass. And the best part about these alternative baby bottles is that they will not poison my baby with BPA. It is my responsibility and the responsibility of every parent to make sure that their baby is safe from all danger. Until the government steps in to place a ban on the use of BPA, we have to protect ourselves.
Health Canada to ban chemical in kids’ toys
Phthalates, found in rattles and other soft vinyl products, could lead to reproductive problems
By Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News ServiceJune 20, 2009
Conceding a decade-old voluntary ban on hormone-disrupting chemicals in children’s toys hasn’t worked, Health Canada Friday announced regulations requiring companies to get phthalates out of soft vinyl toys.
The proposed ban will prevent the use of six phthalates in bath toys, teethers, rattles and other children’s products, such as vinyl bibs. The chemical additive, used to soften vinyl can cause reproductive problems.
Health Canada is taking the step after doing a survey last year that found the widespread presence of phthalates in soft plastic toys and other items for young children that are likely to be chewed on, such as rubber ducks.
The survey, released to Canwest News Service under access to information laws, found elevated levels of phthalates ranging from 0.2 to 39.9 per cent by weight of the plastic known as polyvinyl chloride in three-quarters of the items — or 54 of 72 of the children’s products tested.
A similar phthalates ban has been in place in the European Union since 1999, where pthalate levels cannot exceed 0.1 per cent in children’s products. A ban in the United States came into effect last year.
The government won praise from nearly all corners on Friday.
“This is great news for parents,” said Aaron Freeman, policy director for Environmental Defence, which has been lobbying for a ban for years.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis, health critic for the New Democrats, raised the issue in 1997 when she was first elected. She was even “scolded” by the Speaker of the House of Commons 12 years ago, when she brought in a prop, a pink plastic backpack, to make her point.
“It’s good news. Finally, the government has acted. It’s been a long, hard struggle. I think the science has been in for a long time. Other countries have acted, even the United States has acted.”
The American Chemistry Council said the proposed ban isn’t necessary.
“There is no scientific basis to believe that Health Canada’s decision to restrict certain phthalates in children’s products will improve public health, or meet the stated objective of protecting the health and safety of Canadian children. Phthalates have a long history of safe use, and have been extensively reviewed by governments around the world,” Sharon Kneiss, a council vice-president, said in a statement.
“Because phthalates neither migrate out of products easily, nor build up in the body, research has not demonstrated adverse effects to humans from phthalates at typical exposure levels.”
Until the regulations come into effect, Health Canada is advising parents and caregivers to monitor their children’s use of soft vinyl toys. If parents observe their children sucking and chewing on soft vinyl toys not specifically designed to be placed in a child’s mouth, they should take these items away from their children, according to the department.
The new regulations will also effectively ban lead in these children’s products by proposing a maximum of 90 milligrams of lead per kilogram of product. The current lead limit for toys intended for children under three years old is 600.
Avoid bisphenol A when you can
May. 26, 2009 11:04 AM
Question: I have been reading about the debate over whether BPA is a safe chemical to use in plastics. Should I be using BPA-free products for my family?
Answer: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a compound found in polycarbonate plastics commonly used in items such as baby bottles, tin-can linings and food storage containers. A study conducted by British researchers, which was reported in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that there is a link to higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities in people exposed to high levels of BPA. However, at this time, the Food and Drug Administration states that BPA is safe at current levels and there is no risk to people.
While completely eliminating your family’s exposure to BPA products may be impossible, there are some steps you can take to minimize it.
• Whenever possible, try to avoid plastic containers marked with PC and recycling label No. 7. Plastics with recycling labels Nos. 1, 2 and 4 are safer choices and are BPA-free.
• Use (stainless steel) glass baby bottles, or those made from a safer plastic, such as polyamine, polypropylene or polyethylene. Plastics that are soft or cloudy-colored doesn’t contain BPA. Additionally, Medela bottles used to pump or store expressed breast milk are also made of BPA-free material.
• When selecting a water bottle, consider using one made of stainless steel. Those made of stainless steel are not lined with plastic inserts as other metal varieties.
• Try to avoid eating or drinking foods out of these plastic containers, especially if they have been exposed to heat, in a hot car or placed in the microwave.
Until more research has been conducted and there is a more conclusive answer to the overall safety of BPA, try to reduce your family’s exposure to these products. Many Web sites offer additional tips on reducing your exposure to BPA products like the Environmental Working Group, www.emg.org. If you have additional concerns, speak with your primary care physician or your child’s pediatrician.
– Dr. Albert Tejada
Tejada is a physician at Catholic Healthcare West’s Urgent Care in Ahwatukee
Bisphenol A poses disease risk for adults, study says
Globe and Mail Update
September 16, 2008 at 9:43 PM EDT
An influential new study linking bisphenol A to heart disease and diabetes is raising the possibility that Health Canada erred in April when it concluded that the chemical used to make plastic poses no risk to adults.
The new research, the largest investigation to date on the chemical’s possible effects in humans, found that those with higher exposures to bisphenol A had 2.9 times the odds of having cardiovascular disease and 2.4 times the odds of having adult-onset diabetes, compared with those with lower exposures. Those with more of the chemical also had liver enzyme abnormalities.
The study, issued Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based on the typical ranges of bisphenol A found in American adults.
Health Canada made regulatory history in April by proposing to place bisphenol A on the government’s list of toxic substances and banning it from baby bottles. That made Canada the first country in the world to recommend such actions against the ubiquitous compound used in everything from polycarbonate plastic office water-cooler jugs to the resin linings inside nearly all tin and pop cans.
What says summer like running through the sprinkler, eating a homegrown tomato off the vine, or drinking right from the garden hose? Unfortunately, those summer experiences might come with toxic chemicals like lead, bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and even flame retardants. That’s what the Ecology Center found out when it tested a number of different common garden products recently.
The finding that your hose might be the most dangerous tool in your garden was not necessarily what the Ecology Center expected to find.
“We’ve been looking at a wide range of products where there is a credible connection to having human exposure and we know that consumer products are a very significant source of exposure to many of these chemicals,” explained John Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s research director. “We’ve looked at everything from baby products to toys to things as big as vehicles and building materials.”
They had not yet examined garden products, and a few people had asked about them. “We started off trying to do a broader assessment and we did screen a range of products, but overwhelmingly we found that the garden hoses were of most concern.”
What is so dangerous about an innocent-looking hose? To start, one in three of the hoses tested had levels of lead that exceeded drinking water standards. And water sampled from one hose was 18 times the levels allowed in drinking water! Only there is nothing illegal about this, because hoses are not regulated by the same laws that limit lead leached by plumbing fixtures into drinking water. (Since, you know, no one is ever going to drink out of a hose or use it to water plants they might eat.) Brass, often used in plumbing fixtures, is an alloy that can contain up to 8 percent lead. In addition to its uses in brass fixtures, lead is also sometimes used as stabilizers or pigments, particularly in yellow or green hoses. Lead is a neurotoxin and children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults.
The good news is that the state of California took action against three major manufacturers of water hoses over lead content in their products in 2003 and settled in 2004. Under the settlement, the companies Teckni-Plex, Inc.; Plastic Specialties and Technologies, Inc. Teknor Apex Company; and Flexon Industries Corporation were to limit the lead content in their products. (The details are on this page, toward the bottom.) While the Ecology Center did not test any of these brands for lead leaching, presumably gardeners who purchased their hoses since 2007, when the settlement terms fully took effect, can skip worrying about lead – and instead only worry about other chemicals like BPA and phthalates.
For anyone familiar with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), nicknamed “poison plastic,” it should come as no surprise that PVC hoses contain phthalates and leach them into the hose water. According to Gearhart “most vinyl hoses are going to have phthalate plasticizers in them.” Phthalates, used as plasticizers, are endocrine disruptors, and some studies link them to liver cancer. Levels of one phthalate, DEHP, was found in the hose water at a rate of four times the amount permitted in drinking water. Several phthalates have been banned in children’s toys, but they are still used in garden hoses and garden gloves.
Another concern found was BPA, an endocrine disruptor that has gotten a lot of publicity recently due to campaigns to ban it from use in baby bottles and sippy cups. Nowadays, consumers have wised up, and many plastic water bottles are marketed as “BPA-free.” The hose industry has faced no such scrutiny, it seems. This endocrine-disrupting chemical was found at a level 20 times higher than what is considered a safe amount in drinking water by the National Science Foundation.
Aside from these harmful chemicals, a few products were also found to contain flame retardants and the heavy metals cadmium and antimony. Gearhart was surprised to find flame retardants in a water hose, but when the researchers found bromine in their tests, they looked further to find its source, and it came from brominated flame retardants. The hoses that tested positive for flame retardants were made from recycled materials, making Gearhart wonder if the manufacturer had recycled flame retardant plastics into garden hoses.
It’s easy to evaluate the impacts of toxic chemicals when they are in drinking water, but it becomes far more complex once they are in your garden. For each chemical, one must consider how quickly they break down, and what they break down into, whether they bind to soil or to water, and whether they are taken up into plants. If they are taken up into plants, the next question is, which part – roots, leaves, fruits, or seeds? And finally, are there children in your garden (or perhaps even adults) who will have a lot of contact with the soil or even eat it?
So what can you do if you are a gardener? If you can afford it, replace your hose. The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff Web site offers a list of safe garden hoses, many of which are made from natural rubber. But for those who cannot replace their hose quickly, Gearhart offers a few tips. First of all, no drinking out of the hose! Second, store your hose in the shade. And third, let your hose run for a few moments before using it to water your plants.
Another strategy? Don’t water your plants unless you need to. Wait until the soil is dry an inch below the surface or until your plants are slightly wilted in the evening before watering, and check the weather to see if rain is in the forecast. To help your soil conserve moisture, add a thick layer of mulch – at least three inches. This will have other benefits in addition to conserving moisture, as it encourages the growth of beneficial microbes, breaks down to enrich your soil, and prevents soil from splashing on your plants during waterings, thus preventing soil-borne plant diseases.
If you are worried that your soil is already contaminated with toxins, it’s easy and inexpensive to test for heavy metals like lead but more complicated and expensive to test for other chemicals. The University of Massachusetts provides soil testing for lead for only $10. If you find your soil is contaminated, the solution might be as simple as planting sunflowers. Sunflowers are just one of many plants useful in a strategy called phytoremediation, in which plants help remove or break down toxins in the soil. The good news about sunflowers is that they are easy to grow in even the worst soil – and they are beautiful. However, if you go that route, be sure to toss your sunflowers out after they’ve grown, because if you put them in your compost pile, you’ll return the toxins back to your soil.
A Survivor’s Story: Did Modern Life Give Me Breast Cancer?
A week later, I returned with my husband and learned I had breast cancer. Nothing had prepared me for this diagnosis. No one in my family had breast cancer. No one I knew under 40 had breast cancer. When I finally caught my breath, I asked the question every cancer patient wants to know: why me?
My doctor didn’t have an answer, but as Florence Williams describes in her new book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History (reviewed in the Summer 2012 issue of OnEarth), scientists are shedding new light on what may be causing the disease — and what they’re finding is scary for everyone who lives in our modern world.
They can’t work fast enough, as far as I’m concerned. The incidence of breast cancer is on the rise. Women born in the 1960s are twice as likely to get breast cancer as their grandmothers. Each year one million women get diagnosed with the disease, and researchers expect the number to grow 20 percent by 2020. Only about 10 percent of cases are thought to be due to hereditary risk, Williams writes. Lifestyle choices such as delayed childbirth play a role, but exposure to toxic chemicals does as well. In a groundbreaking report released in 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel said that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.”
Williams views the spike in breast cancer as a warning sign. Breasts “are a particularly fine mirror of our industrial lives. They accumulate more toxins than other organs and process them differently,” she writes. They reveal something about the hazards of modern life, and we should pay attention.
Breast tissue acts like a sponge that soaks up and stores many of the chemicals our bodies encounter. Those toxins can linger for decades, causing malfunctions and even getting passed on to our children. When Williams was nursing her second child, she sent her breast milk to a lab in Germany and discovered it contained elevated levels of flame-retardants — a class of chemicals known to cause developmental delays, reproductive disorders, and cancer — and perchlorate, an ingredient in jet fuel that disrupts hormone function.
Where do these chemicals come from? The Environmental Working Group found perchlorate in the drinking water sources of more than 7 million Californians and also in lettuce, milk, and other food. Flame retardants are present in furniture, foam pillows, car seats, and countless other articles of modern life. Last fall, California listed one common flame retardant as a known carcinogen but didn’t outlaw it.
In other words, cancer-causing chemicals are all around us.
I gave birth to my son 10 days after I was diagnosed. Becoming a parent at the same time I became a cancer patient made me fiercely protective: I never wanted my child to suffer the anguish of this disease. I vowed to keep him safe from as many cancer triggers as I could.
When he was about three years old, however, I started learning about Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a synthetic, nearly ubiquitous form of estrogen. Estrogen feeds breast cancer, and, indeed, BPA has been proven to cause normal breast cells to behave like cancer cells and has also been linked to prostate cancer, lower sperm counts, and early puberty. BPA is everywhere: in plastic water bottles, food containers, and baby bottles — the same bottles I had used to feed my son when he was a baby. Because I had to start chemotherapy soon after he was born, I couldn’t nurse him. Several times a day for more than a year, he ate formula from bottles containing BPA.
Once I learned its hazards, I avoided BPA as much as possible. But as Williams discovered, searching out safer products isn’t always enough. She decided to conduct an experiment with another known group of toxins: she and her seven-year-old daughter had their urine tested for phthalates, hormone disruptors linked to reproductive disorders and cancer. Then they spent a week trying to steer clear of products with phthalates, including certain shampoos, lotions, and plastic food containers. At the end of the week, they tested their urine again. Their detox reduced their chemical load but by no means removed it. Williams still had more than twice the average American adult’s level of MBP, a phthalate associated with genital abnormalities in humans and atypical mammary growth in male rats. Her daughter’s level of another phthalate dropped only 5 percent after the detox. “What these tests tell us,” Williams concluded, “is how stunningly easy it is to get relatively high levels of biologically active chemicals into one’s body.”
This ongoing exposure is demoralizing to other cancer survivors I know. We work so hard to fight the disease: we get our scans, we take supplements, we juice. Because breast cancer is fueled by estrogen, I avoid medication with hormones in it. I don’t even eat tofu because it contains natural estrogen. But what good does that do if my organic beans come in cans lined with BPA?
Even if I avoid canned food, I may not be able to find a car free of flame retardants or a school lunch tray without BPA. Consumer power alone can’t protect us from these chemicals. And no matter how many pink-ribbon walks we do, cancer survivors alone can’t force companies to stop putting these toxins in everyday products. We need the government to step in and do its job.
“In the United States,” Williams writes, “every chemical is assumed safe until proven guilty.” Yet few chemicals ever go on trial. There are more than 80,000 manmade chemicals used in the United States, but the Environmental Protection Agency has required only 200 of them to be tested and only 5 to be regulated.
And to make matters worse, current protocol doesn’t require companies to examine what chemicals do to mammary glands. For the small fraction of chemicals tested, scientists look at cancer risk for liver, thyroid, kidney, and brain, while ignoring the highly sensitive breast. In my work writing for NRDC, I have gotten to know some of the scientists leading an effort to include mammary glands in testing protocols and to prioritize testing for chemicals most like to cause mammary tumors — research that may someday help protect the daughter I was lucky to have three years after my diagnosis.
With so many toxic chemicals swirling around us and so few studies, it’s nearly impossible to determine which ones may have contributed to my breast cancer. There is one thing I do know though. The experiences of losing my hair, undergoing weeks of radiation, lying awake worrying if the cancer had spread, and wondering if I would live to see my son enter kindergarten taught me something both obvious and hard won: if tools exist to prevent others from suffering this fate, we must use them. If forcing companies to find safer ways to make shampoo and plastic water bottles will reduce our cancer risk, we must do it.
Anyone who has sat in a doctor’s office and heard the words, “You have cancer,” would tell you the same. My risk of hearing those words again remains high – if the cells in your breast go haywire once, they are likely to do it again. As much as I want to avoid another cancer diagnosis, it’s even more important for me to protect my children from one. I suspect any parent would tell you the same.
Recycling has grown quite popular in my lifetime, but from my two years of work with the Plastic Pollution Coalition, I know that recycling plastic really isn’t the answer at all.
Plastic is quite obviously not an organic substance, and by that I mean it must be synthesized in a lab. Because it is not an organic compound, it cannot biodegrade, or break down into other compounds. This means that no matter how long it exists, it can only become smaller pieces of plastic. This is why plastic lasts for so long in landfills. Secondly, its main component is petroleum. That’s right — the gasoline that is causing global warming is also the main component of the plastics that seem to be everywhere.
Recycling doesn’t help much, either. Plastic cannot be recycled back into what it originally was. This process is called downcycling. For example, the plastic bottle that you put in the recycling bin cannot be “reincarnated” as another food-grade plastic item. Recycling is also a very expensive process. It costs an average of $4,000 to recycle plastic into a product worth about $30. A large portion of plastic that is “recycled” actually gets sent to China and India, where workers burn it, sending plastic particulate into the air, which is even worse than it sounds. This is not to discount recycling as an idea, but our current infrastructure is not set up to recycle effectively.
Not only this, but plastic is literally poisoning our bodies. There are a few “ingredients” to plastic, such as bisphenol-A and phthalates, which leak out of the plastic and into whatever liquid or food item that is touching it. These chemicals have been shown to cause various problems — mainly cancer and birth defects. With these facts in mind, I find it nearly impossible to use disposable plastic in my daily life.
Now that I have shocked you with these tidbits of info, it would be a great idea to learn more about the issue. Video talks, facts and product suggestions can be found on the Plastic Pollution Coalition website, along with links to other organizations with similar focuses. Even with the treasure trove of information available, I’ll leave you with a short list of ways you can begin to change your habits.
Bring your own water bottle. Get a stainless steel bottle and bring it with you wherever you go. You may miss the “convenience” of buying a new bottle wherever you go, but in the long run, having your own bottle is the better option. A simple fix would be buying a drink in a glass bottle and reusing that bottle as long as you can. If you lose or break it, it isn’t as big of a problem as if you were using a nice stainless steel bottle you purchased.
Bring your own silverware. My school uses predominantly corn-based, “biodegradable” (this is largely a false claim as it must be heated to about 160 degrees for a number of days to even begin to break down) silverware on campus, but that isn’t really the answer, either. The best solution is using reusable bamboo silverware. Bamboo is naturally antibacterial, and is very easy to clean. There are plenty of options when it comes to utensils, if you just look for them. I currently use “To-Go Ware” bamboo cutlery. You could even bring old silverware from home with you wherever you go if you aren’t interested in buying anything new.
Bring your own straw. It is difficult to avoid having a straw in your drink at a restaurant nowadays. I have been using stainless steel straws for years now, and half the time when I ask a waiter for no straw in my drink, I get one anyways. Stainless steel straws are inexpensive and long-lasting. Just remember to say “No straw please!” when you order your drink, and don’t forget your steel straw at the restaurant or accidentally throw it away!
Bring your own bag. This one is a biggie, but also very well publicized. I’m sure many teenagers who have an interest in fashion have seen the “I am not a plastic bag!” totes of 2007. Americans as a whole use about 1 billion plastic bags a year, which is about 300,000 tons of plastic! As widespread as this advice is, we still need to work on following it. Many counties are working towards plastic bag bans. If you are at all interested, it would be a great idea to research efforts in your area. Bag bans can always use more support.
I know that cutting back on all plastic is nearly impossible now, but by starting with these tips and pushing companies to explore other options instead of plastic, one day it won’t be such a challenge.
- BPA, or Bisphenol A, is found in just about every consumer product containing plastic — from water bottles to soup cans to baby bottles. And most studies, including one released this month by the National Academy of Sciences, connect BPA to all sorts of inexplicable yet increasingly common ailments from obesity to breast cancer. Yet our Food and Drug Administration, which is supposed to protect us from harmful substances, cannot seem to ban it. Why is this?
BPA has been around a long time. It’s been used in plastics for the past six or seven decades. It’s a synthetic chemical that is similar to estrogen. It is now categorized as belonging to a family of manmade substances found increasingly in the environment (and in our bodies) known as endocrine disruptors.
- The list of diseases and disorders now scientifically connected to BPA is lengthy and scary. Many are considered to be at epidemic proportions, even though we have yet to find cures. They include obesity, infertility, early puberty, prostate disease, breast cancer, impaired immune function, decreased anti-oxidant enzyme levels, changes in brain chemistry, and on and on the list goes.
- One can easily understand why a huge increase in endocrine-like substances could throw the human body into biological disorder. Hormones regulate most bodily functions, including the reproductive system, the immune system and so on. When these systems malfunction, the whole body is rendered out of whack.
When the FDA refused in March of this year, as it has several times in the past, to ban BPA, it noted that more study is needed.
- This is the same misguided approach the agency has taken in the past. Its website explains away these types of rulings thusly: “Overall, the current literature cannot yet be fully interpreted for biological or experimental consistency or for relevance to human health. Part of the difficulty for evaluating consistency lies in reconciling findings of different studies that use different experimental designs and different specific behavioral tests to measure the same dimension of behavior.”
- But knowledgeable, credible scientists call the agency’s posture a ruse and say there is plenty of data to back up a ban. One of those scientists, John Peterson “Pete” Myers, told me scores of studies worldwide point directly to BPA as inherently harmful to human health.
- Myers is founder, CEO and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, a Virginia-based nonprofit group. He holds a doctorate in the biological sciences from the University of California, Berkeley and co-wrote, with Dr. Theo Colborn and Dianne Dumanoski, “Our Stolen Future,” (1996) a book that explores how contamination threatens fetal development.
- Myers is one of 36 scientists to conclude in a peer-reviewed commentary that an FDA draft decision on Bisphenol A used unacceptable criteria for selecting data and depended heavily upon a key paper that was fatally flawed.
- Environmentally conscious consumers have already demanded BPA-free plastics for use in water bottles, plastic ware and the like. But Myers told me substitutes, such as BPC or BPD, could easily be substituted. There is no data on whether those endocrine disruptors harm human health. Hee suspects they would.
- If BPA were banned, it would definitely disrupt the mighty and powerful U.S. chemical industry, which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency causes the release each year of more than 1 million pounds of the chemical into the environment.
- Even so, that formidable agency is “considering rule-making” that might, “identify BPA on the Concern List as a substance that may present an unreasonable risk of injury to the environment … “ Wow! There’s decisive action by our government!
- We need protection and we need it now. The chemical industry must be made to create a safe alternative to BPA and phase it in, while phasing out BPA. Will that happen anytime soon? Not as long as there’s a dollar more to be squeezed out of doing things the old-fashioned (to wit, cheap) way.