Terrible Toxins: 5 Bisphenol A: Plastics Gone Wild
Competency # 18 Environmental Toxins
Reference: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Sunday, August 23, 2009; The Body Toxic by Nena Baker, Published by Farrar, Strauss 2008
This is a hot topic. Headline news this week in newspapers, “Chemical Industry to Launch a Publicity Blitz to Protect Bisphenol A.” At 6 billion pounds a year, this is not a small industry. The clear plastics that you drink your “pure water” out of, the lining of many canned vegetables and soups, eye glasses, baby bottles, dental sealant. The stuff is everywhere. It’s even in paper towels (you know those kinds that never break when they get wet…) The controversy is everywhere too.
Bisphenol is another endocrine disrupting chemical. It leaks out of plastics. The chemical bond that makes polycarbonate is inherently unstable. With heat, the chemical bond really comes apart and bisphenol leaches out. That may explain why boiling water will make bisphenol leak out at 50 times the rate of cold water. What makes it interesting is that bisphenol causes problems at very low levels because of its endocrine disrupting effect. At the very lowest of levels, it does something very unique. It gets into cells and does the oddest things. It blocks the effects of estrogen inside a cell, not outside, like most chemicals. That may explain why it has been devilishly hard to nail down.
So when the chemical industry studies bisphenol, which it has done 13 times in the last 10 years, all 13 studies find it to be safe. When independent university labs study it, in smaller studies with very low doses, 93% of 163 studies show bisphenol to be a problem. Interesting, isn’t it, that we get such opposite results from different parties!
Is there a consensus summary of what bisphenol does? Yes. Low levels of bisphenol cause normal breast cells to change, activating genes seen only in aggressive breast cancer cells. It causes a “striking increase in genes that promote cell division, increase cell metabolism, and increased resistance to drugs that usually kill cancer cells” (Dairkee Cancer Research 2008) Given pre-natally or to neonatal lab animals, it causes functional and structural changes in prostates, breasts, testes, body size, brain chemistry and behavior.
Once again, we have the dilemma of regulatory models. In Europe, a safety model now prevails. In America, we require absolute rigid proof before our agencies can regulate. To navigate this world, you have to decide for yourself. The headlines now state, “The Chemical Industry is Fighting Back.” They can delay action for years. Demanding absolute proof is a very high standard.
WWW. What will work for me. I’m trying not to drink any water from plastic bottles any more. I’m using glasses or stainless steel. We’ve changed our food storage canisters to glass. I don’t heat food in the microwave in anything but glass or ceramic containers. Now, cutting down on canned vegetables is harder. That’s my list. Yours?