Poor old plastic has taken a public beating for its new-found role in causing disease. You may have even memorized the types of plastics that are safer to use than others. But did you know that the dangerous compounds used in the production of plastics have been used to make other products as well?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound found in a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental composite (white) fillings and sealants, lenses and household electronics. It is used in the manufacture of all CDs and DVDs. It can be found in the coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans. Living in our modern world means exposure to this compound unless careful measure is taken to avoid it. In 2003, U.S. consumption was 856,000 tons.
Unfortunately, BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, and very low doses act as hormones in the body. Long-term exposure can cause chronic toxicity increasing the likelihood of developing cancer and neurological diseases. There is also risk of developmental toxicity in fetuses, infants and children.
Studies on primates show toxicity to brain functions connected to memory, learning and mood at levels equal to the EPA's maximum safe dose for humans. Some research suggests that exposure to this and other environmental hormone disruptors can cause fat-cell proliferation and increased tendency toward obesity. Obesity in its own right is a risk factor for cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
A recent study conducted at the University of Cincinnati found that BPA can also make chemotherapy for breast cancer less effective by binding to estrogen receptors and stimulating the production of proteins that protect the cell against chemotherapy. So BPA is increasing your chance of developing a hormone-related cancer and reducing your chance of cure at the same time.
Phthalates are another culprit. They are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizers, dispersants, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents and suspending agents. End applications include adhesives and glues, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal care products, detergents, plastic objects, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products and textiles.
Phthalates have many of the same health consequences as BPA and we are exposed through our diet as well as through our skin.
The word is out about BPA and phthalates. Manufacturers have taken note. Products are now being made BPA and phthalate free, and are labeled as such. Seek these products out. Stay conscious of what your food is packaged in and discriminate when shopping. These subtle nuances of our modern world are creating the domain of chronic disease that we find ourselves in today, but now you can take a step toward protecting yourself and your family by choosing products marked BPA and phthalate free.
Dr. Christina Amicone is a resident physician in naturopathic medicine at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic and St. Vincent's Cancer Care. She can be reached at 259-5096. Send naturopathic health questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.