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Just What Are You Actually Drinking, And Feeding Your Baby?

Those fizzy drinks, baby food containers, and water bottles may be providing more than just their contents!

A special report by Unionsafety Web editor, Chris Ingram:

It has been known for years that chemicals in the plastics that your bottles and food containers are manufactured from, can leach out into the food and drink contents; and hence into your body. The possibility of a person developing a form of cancer due to the ingestion of such chemicals is well documented - it is only the degree of risk that is under debate!

The leaching out of chemicals is one of the reasons why many plastic bottles advise on their labels not to re-use the bottle once it is empty of the drink or food items it originally contained. Again, exposing plastic bottles generally to sunlight can increase the chemical leakage into the food and drink contained within.

But is there a link between the inadvertent consumption of plastic chemicals and the fact that Breast cancer rates in the UK have reached epidemic proportions? What about other cancers, such as testicular?

Pic: Body of Evidence report - click to download from the E-LibraryIn England alone, nearly 42,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Incidence rates have increased by 90% since 1971 (ONS 2010). Only around 26.8% of breast cancer cases can be attributed to known causes such as a hereditary link, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and exogenous hormones, such as prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or the contraceptive pill.

There is now compelling evidence that low dose exposure to the hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemical (EDC), Bisphenol A (BPA), could be contributing to the rise in the disease. The human population is exposed on a daily basis to hundreds of pollutant chemicals; many of which are now known to enter human breast tissue and which can mimic or interfere in the actions of the female hormone, oestrogen. Bisphenol A (BPA) present on most plastic food and drink containers; is one such chemical.

Humans are exposed to BPA through a variety of different sources including till receipts, mobile phones and laptops.

However, it is thought that diet is the main route of exposure.

Further, in mammals, chemicals having EA (estrogenic activity) can produce many health-related problems, such as early puberty in females, reduced sperm counts, altered functions of reproductive organs, obesity, altered sex-specific behaviours, and increased rates of some breast, ovarian, testicular, and prostate cancers.

Many of these effects observed in mammals are also expected to be produced in humans, because basic endocrine mechanisms have been highly conserved across all classes of vertebrates.

If you have been living in Europe or the US it is highly probable that you have BPA in your system, as 90% of Europeans and Americans have detectable amounts. Plus 3,175 million tons of BPA are produced annually, and BPA ends up in a number of consumer goods including polycarbonate plastic products (reusable water bottles, sippy cups, leftover containers, baby bottles, and toys), the lining of canned foods, baby formula and beverages, pizza boxes, and other fast food containers.

However, much less is known about the chemicals used to replace BPA in plastic products; which begs the question:
what of the safety of alternative non-BPA containing plastics used to make food and drink containers?

Well, these are brought into question too following a study done in the USA which sought to determine whether commercially available plastic resins and products, including baby bottles and other products advertised as Bisphenol A (BPA) free, release chemicals having EA.

The researchers sampled almost all commercially available plastic products, and found that independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source; leached chemicals contained reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free.

Pic: American study into Bisphenol AThe study report published in July 2012 stated alarmingly, that in some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.

The researchers concluded from the study that many plastic products are mischaracterised as being EA free.

However, they also stated:

“we can identify existing compounds, or have developed monomers, additives, or processing agents that have no detectable EA and have similar costs. Hence, our data suggest that EA-free plastic products exposed to common-use stresses and extracted by saline and ethanol solvents could be cost-effectively made on a commercial scale and thereby eliminate a potential health risk posed by most currently available plastic products that leach chemicals having EA into food products.”

A study in Germany in 2009 found that bottled water was contaminated with eostrogen which had leached out of the plastic bottles used.

Martin Wagner and Jörg Oehlmann, from the Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, declared that their study showed that plastic mineral water bottles contaminate drinking water with xenoestrogens.

In their report on commercially available mineral waters, published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, the researchers explain how they analyzed 20 brands of mineral water available in Germany - nine bottled in glass, nine bottled in plastic and two bottled in composite packaging (paperboard boxes coated with an inner plastic film). They took water samples from the bottles and tested them for the presence of estrogenic chemicals in vitro and also carried out a reproduction test with the New Zealand mud snail to determine the source and potency of the xenoestrogens.

They detected estrogen contamination in 60 percent of the samples (12 of the 20 brands) analyzed. Mineral waters in glass bottles were less estrogenic than waters in plastic bottles. Specifically, 33 percent of all mineral waters bottled in glass compared with 78 percent of waters in plastic bottles and both waters bottled in composite packaging showed significant hormonal activity.

Prior to the American study being published, on 24 April 2012 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced that it had started work on a new risk assessment of BPA used in food contact materials (such as packaging and containers, kitchen equipment, cutlery and dishes), focusing specifically on its exposure to vulnerable groups.

EFSA claims that this initiative was taken in light of its ongoing monitoring of scientific research on BPA and EFSA's Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF)’s further consideration of new scientific studies – and would thus be unrelated to various initiatives in the Member States of the EU.

According to the so-called “low dose-hypothesis”, hormonally active agents may exert “low dose effects”, which would challenge the assumption in the current risk assessment process for most chemicals that the individual response of an organism to a chemical substance increases proportionally to the exposure/dose. Several chemicals that can be present in food have been claimed to possess endocrine active properties and to produce “low dose effects”. These include several pesticides, dioxins, polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), and Bisphenol A.

Pic: Plastic bottles chemical content - click to download PDF fileIn October 2012, EFSA met with European and national experts to share and exchange information about ongoing work and risk assessments on BPA.

In the short-term, these included an upcoming risk assessment of BPA on human health in France by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (Anses) and a report by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) on the assessment of the human health risks deriving from the use of BPA in medical devices.

On the 26th March 2013 EFSA announced that it will launch a public consultation in July on its draft scientific opinion on the possible risks to public health of Bisphenol A (BPA).

By extending the timeline for the final adoption of its opinion to November 2013, EFSA’s scientific experts will also be able to consider the results of ongoing scientific work on BPA at European and national level while completing their comprehensive risk assessment.

In the meantime, a ban on certain uses of Bisphenol A (BPA) will roll out in several EU countries, with a focus on food and children applications, similar to the measures already passed in Canada and California.

Further, the French Environment Minister Delphine Batho announced recently that France is seeking an EU ban on Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal till receipts.

The ban was recommended by ANSES in a report published this April which is part of the development of a French national strategy to address the risks of BPA.

According to the ANSES report, till receipts may pose health risks to pregnant women and their foetuses, especially cashiers who are constantly in contact with them. But more research is needed for a thorough analysis. Last year, similar concerns were raised in Sweden.

Sweden, France and other member states have already passed laws banning the use of BPA in food packaging but the EU currently only bans the chemical in baby bottles.

Here are some steps you can take now to reduce your exposure to BPA and harmful chemicals:

* Try to stay away from receipts (sometimes they can be emailed) and carbonless paper, which often contain BPA. If you handle a large amount of receipts, wash your hands often and try wearing gloves.

* Avoid drinking canned fizzy drinks or beers.

* Opt for bottled waters and other plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom and avoid #7, which are usually made with polycarbonate (PC) plastics.

* Do not microwave plastics, either BPA or BPA-free, and don't leave your plastics sitting in the sunlight.

You can download the research study findings and the findings of the study sponsored by Breast Cancer UK from the Unionsafety E-Library Database using keyword ‘Bisphenol’.

Source: Breast Cancer UK / Field Fisher Waterhouse / Alliance for Cancer Prevention / EDC Free / The Independent / Environ Health Perspectives / US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health / European Food Standards Agency / Environmental Science and Pollution Research


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