Thursday, May 16, 2013
BPA: Canned Soup, Baby Bottles, Thyroid Disease, Hormones, and More
I couldn't help once again seeing the words BPA FREE stamped on various products throughout the store. Many consumers may not pay attention to these little details, but when you specialize in hormone replacement therapy and see the impact of our environment on patients, it means a great deal more. I'm constantly seeing information on BPA through the Anti-Aging and alternative medicine network sites that I'm involved with. Today I wanted to cover that little tidbit of information that you see on various plastics in our stores these days, BPA FREE. And then I want to highlight an article that I came across showing the results of spiked BPA levels found in the urine samples of those eating canned soups. (Harvard Medical School)
What's the big deal? Well, it actually is a big deal and I hope you learn something today.
BPA. What is it?
BPA is an acronym for Bisphenol A. It's essentially a synthetic hormone (estrogen) structurally and functionally related to Diethylstilbesterol (DES). Now I probably should back up and explain that chemical a little too. DES was banned in 1971 for use in pregnant women using it (3 decades of use. gasp!!) to prevent miscarriage because it was found to increase cancer risk at least 40x more than the general population. Sadly, it was striking young women and they were termed "DES daughters". At birth, DES daughters commonly had defective reproductive organs. As women, these "daughters" faced a 2 in 3 chance of failing to produce a live baby with each pregnancy.
DES was also added to animal feed to promote growth in chickens, sheep, and beef cattle. DES use in meat production continued until 1979. Today, sadly, they just use different hormones in production. (I'll save that for another blog) There are many farmers who are producing hormone free products and their businesses are booming.
Now back to BPA.
BPA was first considered for use as an estrogenic human drug, but DES took the forefront instead. However, in the 1950's it was found that BPA could be used to create epoxy and plastic resins. In the U.S., BPA use amounts to 2 billion pounds per year, much of it in clear plastic bottles, food containers, BABY BOTTLES (gasp again!!), and metal and INFANT FORMULA cans (bad bad bad). Today nearly 93 percent of Americans carry detectable amounts of BPA in their urine (Centers for Disease Control). Why might that be? Over 6 billion pounds of BPA is produced and over 100 tons released into the atmosphere worldwide annually. (yes, that's every year) Does that make you want to hold your breath or what?!?!
Canada has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. Minnesota and Connecticut have also joined Canda in banning BPA from some baby products.
What about problems with general health and hormones? (I'm glad you asked. lol)
BPA binds to Thyroid and Estrogen receptors and inhibits their normal effect causing thyroid and hormone disruptions. Xenoestrogens are tricky to the endocrine system, and cause the body's normal production to be out of whack with the external influence of these chemicals. It's a medical fact and cited in numerous books and articles from experts throughout the U.S.
Just for fun, walk through your house and look at all the plastics. Structurally similar molecules to BPA are found in many things: toothpaste, mouthwash, soaps, deodorants, shaving creams, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, trash bags, clothing, bedding, and childrens toys.
What can you do to help yourself and your family? Well, here's a few little things to get you going.
Minimize plastic exposure by using glass, ceramic, and stainless steel containers. Avoid microwaving in plastic containers. Read labels and look for potentially harmful chemicals. Buy "certified organic" or "hormone free" as much as possible. Its' very sad to me that you have to pay so much more for these safer alternatives. I think the government should invest in those farmers who are producing truly "organic" products. (my two cents)
I would love to hear your comments or personal insight on this topic. It's a very broad subject, to say the least, and I'm always in tune to the term "environmentally friendly" these days . That term is "all fine and good", but what about the impact on patients health, disease risk, and hormone imbalance to produce mass quanities of something that is supposed to be considered safe.....and convenient. Some things we just cannot afford to wait 30 years to find out that it's wrong. And especially when it affects the health of people.
What about canned soups?
By John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today
Published: November 22, 2011
Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston and
Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner
Levels of bisphenol A, a plasticizer suspected of causing a range of adverse health effects, shot up nearly 20-fold in people who ate canned soup daily for five days, researchers said.
In 75 healthy volunteers participating in a blinded crossover trial, urinary levels of BPA averaged 1.1 mcg/L when they ate homemade soup for five days, but reached 20.8 mcg/L when they ate canned Progresso soups, reported Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues.
"The absolute urinary BPA concentrations observed following canned soup consumption are among the most extreme reported in a nonoccupational setting," the researchers wrote in a research letter published in the Nov. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, for example, indicated that the 95th percentile for urinary BPA was 13.0 mcg/L, Michels and colleagues noted.
BPA is used in a wide range of consumer and medical products to soften plastics. Studies have shown that BPA can mimic the action of female reproductive hormones and may be linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver abnormalities. Infants' exposure is a particular concern because they may be more sensitive to these effects than adults.
Last month, researchers found that children whose mothers had high urine levels of BPA during pregnancy were more prone to behavioral problems.
The U.S. government, after initially dismissing concerns about BPA in baby bottles and other consumer products, reversed course in 2010 and promised a major research effort to pin down the health risks.
Because BPA is also used in food can linings, Michels and colleagues sought to examine whether canned soups would be a vehicle to increase human intake of the chemical.
They used five varieties of vegetarian Progresso soups, including tomato and minestrone, and five similar homemade soups. Participants were randomly assigned to start with the commercial or homemade soups, eating a serving of each variety at lunchtime daily for five days. After a two-day washout period, participants who first ate the canned products then had a week of the homemade soups, and vice versa.
Participants could otherwise eat what they pleased during the study.
Urine samples were collected in the late afternoon on the fourth and fifth days of each period. To minimize intraindividual variations, each person's samples from consecutive days were mixed prior to analysis.
BPA levels in urine were adjusted for dilution, using a formula that included the samples' specific gravity.
All the participants had detectable BPA in their urine after eating the canned soup, whereas 23% of samples in the homemade-soup phase were BPA-free.
The mean individual difference between mean adjusted urinary BPA levels following canned versus homemade soups, 22.5 mcg/L, was highly significant, with a 95% confidence interval of 19.6 to 25.5 mcg/L, Michels and colleagues reported.
Results were nearly identical for participants who started the trial with canned soup compared with those initially assigned to the homemade soups.
The researchers did list several limitations to the analysis. The study involved one institution (all participants were students or employees of the Harvard School of Public Health) and the canned soup came from a single manufacturer.
More important, Michels and colleagues indicated that "the increase in urinary BPA concentrations following canned soup consumption is likely a transient peak of yet uncertain duration. The effect of such intermittent elevations in urinary BPA concentrations is unknown."
But they argued that the magnitude of the peaks seen in their study is great enough to cause concern.
"Even if not sustained, [it] may be important, especially in light of available or proposed alternatives to [BPA-containing] epoxy resin linings for most canned goods."
To your good health,