For Those Over 40, Higher Levels of BPA in Urine Linked To Obesity

For those over 40 years of age (including this author), a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found higher levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in urine are associated with obesity, abdominal fat and insulin resistance. The study looked at 3,390 Chinese adults over the age of 40, and concluded that BPA was positively associated with generalized obesity, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance in middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults.

If you need some background on what is BPA, I’ve got a FAQ on it.

The study is consistent with other epidemiological studies which have shown links between BPA and metabolic disorders.  Because virtually all American adults have BPA in their bodies, this study suggests that BPA may pose a significant health risk. 

BPA is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, so food and drink stored in polycarbonate plastic can result in exposure (think of those 5 gallon water bottles).   BPA is also used in the manufacture of epoxy resin linings for virtually all canned food and drink in the US – so to avoid BPA, skip canned foods. Think fresh, frozen, dried or jarred in glass over canned.  At least one study confirmed that you can reduce BPA dramatically by eliminating canned foods.  BPA is also used in the manufacture of certain thermal receipts, and can be absorbed through the skin.

Just one more reason to avoid BPA.

We’re killing birds with our bottle caps

I’ve blogged before about the horrific impact of disposable plastic on our oceans – from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to animals stuck in plastic soda rings. Well, now, we’ve got one more thing to consider – bottle caps. Yep, those plastic bottle caps are killing birds. Why? Because birds eat those plastic caps thinking they are food, and then starve when their bellies are too full of plastic things that aren’t food.  According to a recent article by the BBC,

“about one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents.”

Photographer Chris Jordan has been documenting birds on Midway Atoll (way out in the Pacific Ocean, near the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). And his images of the carcasses of baby birds with bellies full of plastic bottle caps will get you doing what you can to make sure those bottle caps don’t get swept into the ocean or any other plastic debris.  Five tons of plastic comes to the remote Midway Atoll every year – cast off and forgotten by us.

So, yet again, let’s take steps to eliminate disposable plastic. Switch to reusable grocery and produce bags. Use a reusable stainless steel bottle instead of buying bottled water. Buy items in bulk instead of single serve containers. Let’s keep in mind that plastic just doesn’t go away and our world is an interconnected web. Need more ideas? Check out Beth’s My Plastic-free Life.

Greenwashing – Westcott KleenEarth Scissors with Microban

I was trying to find some information on whether Microban shows up in recycled plastic items. If you aren’t familiar with Microban, Microban is a tradename for various antimicrobial technologies used in consumer products. Microban in plastic used to mean triclosan, but many Microban technologies have been developed so whether the Microban is all triclosan in plastic is hard to tell.

But, in any event, I was curious whether recycled plastic items can have Microban in them if Microban was in the source plastic used. In my searching, I came across Westcott’s KleenEarth scissors for kids which use recycled plastic in the handles and recycled plastic in the packaging. And there are a bunch of different products in this line, all with Microban. BUT, the recycled plastic handles are treated with Microban. So doesn’t that completely defeat the green, earth friendly message? What do you think? Greenwashing at its finest?

As I explained in my post from yesterday, I think I’ll skip the unnecessary Microban containing products.

Back to School with Microban?

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival on Back to School. Be sure to go check out the round up post at Mindful Momma with lots of ideas on going back to school – in green style.

My take on going back to school is pretty close to my good friend Lynn at OrganicMania. You can avoid back to school shopping by remembering to repurpose and reuse. I try to limit new purchases – although the reusable lunch sacks do get pretty worn out each year. So my kids get one new item each year. And I try to purchase with purpose – we don’t even get our class lists until after school starts, so I refuse to buy anything until I know exactly what my kids actually need.

But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t looked at the back to school merchandise when shopping. And boy,  has the use of Microban technologies in school supplies proliferated this year! If you aren’t aware, Microban is a broad range of antimicrobial technologies that are designed to protect products from microbes. Microban technologies do not protect the user of the product from disease causing microorganisms (if Microban International was making such claims, it would be subject to certain regulatory requirements and would have to have proof to support the claims).  Microban technologies are built into the product during the manufacturing process.

What is actually used in the particular Microban technology in a particular product is difficult to discern. It is generally understood that Microban in plastic includes triclosan, a chemical many of us are trying to avoid. But you don’t know for sure. Microban has many different technologies it is using now, including zinc and silver technologies, so the average consumer can’t really tell what formulation is being used in any particular product.

But what is being used begs the question. Why exactly do we need Microban technologies in our binders and other school supplies? It seems like a completely unnecessary use of a chemical. If I need disease prevention, then I should be wiping down the binder and encouraging my children to wash their hands. The Microban technology added to it isn’t going to protect my child from disease – good old handwashing with warm water and soap will do that.

So why the heck are we seeing Microban technologies added to so many products? Because we seem to have a fear of microbes. A completely unnatural fear of microbes. And we think the solution is some antibacterial germ killing chemical, when all we really need to do is wash our hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, rubbing vigorously. That’s it. And it doesn’t take antibacterial soap or antibacterial products.

So how about for back to school we skip the Microban technologies and send our kids to school with some castile liquid soap?

 

New Study Shows Eliminating Canned Foods & Plastic Food Packaging From Diet Significantly Reduces BPA Levels

A peer reviewed study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives provides evidence that eliminating canned foods and plastic food packaging from your diet can dramatically reduce the concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA) and DEHP metabolites in your urine. And what it really means that if you are concerned about exposure to BPA and DEHP, you can do something about it. The study was conducted by scientists at the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute.

BPA is used in virtually all canned food and beverage linings and is also the basic monomer of polycarbonate plastic, which is used for food and beverage storage. If you want more information on BPA, you can check out my post on the basics of BPA. BPA is associated with endocrine disruption in animals and in some human studies. Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update on BPA in which it agreed with the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health that there is “some concern” about the potenetial effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children. Many scientists and researchers, however, are much less reserved when it comes to the safety of BPA, particularly for infants and fetuses, and urge complete avoidance of BPA in food and food contact items.

DEHP is a phthalate commonly used to soften PVC plastic. It can be found in some plastic packaging used for food. It is also linked to endocrine disruption.

The study involved 5 families, with a total of 20 participants. In the study, over a 3 day period, the families ate food that was prepared and stored with minimal canned foods or plastic food packaging. During the three day period of minimal canned food and plastic packaging a caterer prepared and delivered food, avoiding foods packaged in plastic and canned foods. Urine samples were collected before (on days 1 and 2), during (on days 4 and 5), and after this “fresh food” diet. After the “fresh food” diet, the families returned to their normal diet, and urine samples were collected on days 7 and 8.

The urine samples were analyzed for BPA and 7 chemicals that assess for exposure to 5 different phthalates – DEHP (used in some food packaging), DEP, DBP, BBP and DMP.

The study results showed that while the families were eating the “fresh food” diet, their BPA levels dropped on average by more than 60%. For the three metabolites that were used to measured exposure to the phthalate DEHP, all 3 dropped by more than 50% during the “fresh food” diet. When the participants returned to their regular diets, BPA levels increased to approximately the pre-intervention levels.

So, what does this mean for you? That you can reduce your exposure significantly to BPA and DEHP by making dietary adjustments:

  • Choose fresh, frozen, dried or glass jarred over canned foods.  Canned foods and beverages are a major source of BPA exposure for most people. As the study demonstrates, by eliminating canned foods you can significantly reduce your BPA exposure. There are some BPA free canned goods out there, such as Eden Foods canned beans.
  • Choose baby bootles, sippy cups and other food storage and serving pieces that are not made of polycarbonate plastic.
  • Choose soups, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard “brick” carton or glass.
  • Skip water from those 5 gallon polycarbonate plastic bottles.
  • Skip certain plastic wraps which can be PVC. Plastic wrap was first made of PVC. And, PVC remains the most common in food wraps used in catering and other commercial applications. However, many of the leading plastic wraps used in the home have switched to a PVC-free wrap, including Saran Premium, Glad Cling Wrap and Handi Wrap. They are made of low density polyethylene.
  • If you buy soft cheeses and other products wrapped in a plastic wrap, remove the wrapping when you get home and store in glass or similar plastic free storage.

The complete study, entitled “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention” by Ruthann R. Rudel, Janet M. Gray, Connie L. Engel, Teresa W. Rawsthorne, Robin E. Dodson, Janet M. Ackerman, Jeanne Rizzo, Janet L. Nudelman, and Julia Green Brody is available online.

Bah humbug to America Recycles Day – Make it Zero Waste Day Instead

Today is America Recycles Day – November, 15. And just like the pinkwashing fever during October due to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, America Recycles Day brings out the grinch in me.

I say bah humbug.

No doubt recycling has benefits. But, it is vastly superior to eliminate waste in the first place. Or as much waste as possible. Instead of recycling a plastic bottle, skip the plastic bottle entirely and use a re-usable stainless steel bottle. Instead of choosing a paper or plastic bag and recycling either one of them, use reusable shopping bags at the store. Instead of using disposable plates for a party that are made out of 20% corn or post content recycled material or something, use the ceramic or glass plates you have. Instead of take out food containers, bring your own containers – many restaurants will use them (if you aren’t brown-bagging that lunch).

A day that makes you feel good about creating waste is not a day to celebrate. Not at all.

Just look at the sponsors of America Recycles Day – Waste Management (no vested interested there), Nestle Waters (boo), and others. C’mon - I mean really. A bottled water company sponsoring America Recycles Day? Get real.

What it should be is zero waste day. I agree with TreeHugger. I’m not buying a single disposable item today – what about you?

Since I don’t suck on it, I don’t care

biker chick sucking on a leather gloveWhen it comes to lead, I get that a lot. Really. I get comments all the time along the lines of, “Well, I’m not going to suck on it, so who cares?” Or, when it comes to lead in paint, “My kids don’t lick the walls, so it isn’t relevant.”

After my segments on Fox & Friends and Fox & Friends After Show Show, I got quite a few comments that it doesn’t matter if there is lead in the purse if the purse isn’t sucked on. There was also an extensive discussion on an eBay board about it.

I understand that there are a lot of risks in the world. The media bombards us daily with the latest health scare. It is hard to sort out what to worry about and what to ignore. And I get that there are more pressing concerns than lead in vinyl or lead in paint.

And we’ve also come a long way when it comes to lead. We’ve phased it out of paints used in the home. We’ve eliminated it as a fuel additive. At the same time, however, we are finding that levels once believed to be safe aren’t. About 290,000 children in the US have ADHD because of exposure to trace amounts of lead. And, as Dr. Greene explains, a number of recent studies have linked childhood exposure to lead to the surge in Alzheimer’s disease that we are seeing today (my rebuttal to those that say that they got exposed to lead when they were young and are just fine, thank you).

Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and kids are more at risk. Part of the reason kids are more at risk is because of the type of behavior they engage in. Part of it is that they absorb 50% of the lead that they ingest, whereas adults only absorb about 11% of the lead that they ingest.

So, tell me you don’t care about lead in vinyl because you’ve got a lot of other stuff to worry about or you don’t think the risk is that big. That’s fine. But don’t tell me you don’t care because you don’t suck on it. That just tells me you don’t understand the issue.

When it comes to lead in vinyl, lead migrates to the surface. Lead doesn’t like being in the plastic matrix so it moves out of it and comes to the surface. That process occurs more rapidly with exposure to friction and light/heat. Also as the product ages. Once the lead moves to the surface, it is transferred to hands upon handling, and from there can be ingested. Take, for example, lead in vinyl purses. If you handle your purse and your purse has lead, then the lead will be on your hands. If you touch your mouth, then you may well ingest some. Say you get in your car and grab some fries. You probably handled your purse before you got in the car, and as you were getting your money out. Don’t tell me you are going to wash your hands before you eat those fries. And the lead dust that transfers.

Or you handle your purse and then hold your child’s hand. And your child sticks her hands in her mouth. Or eats an apple without washing her hands. Or you handle your vinyl diaper bag and then offer your baby a bottle. All of those situations can result in lead transfer.

Don’t believe that lead comes out of vinyl? Well, the Center for Environmental Health did wipe tests of the purses it found lead in, and found enough coming off with the wipe tests to be of concern. And, the Consumer Product Safety Commission acted years ago to take vinyl blinds off the market because of the high levels of lead dust generated and collecting around the blinds.

When it comes to lead in paint, you do not have to lick the walls. Microscopic lead dust is generated around the home, particularly at friction surfaces, or where painted surfaces rub together. Your door jambs, your windows, your built in cabinets. Plus, we get lead dust blown into our homes from weathering of other buildings and we track in lead contaminated dust.

And the thing is, lead exposure is additive. We already get some in our diets. We also get some in our water from the pipes and fittings. We may get some at home – more if our home was built before 1978. Add in the exposure to lead in vinyl products, and your child’s exposure may be enough to shave off IQ points. Is it really worth that vinyl purse?

FDA Changes Course – Now Believes Bisphenol A (BPA) Poses Safety Concern

Well, after years of contending that bisphenol A (BPA) is perfectly safe, the Food and Drug Administration has reversed course. On Friday, the FDA announced that it now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostrate glands of fetuses, infants and young children (consistent with the National Toxicology Program’s findings). 

But, even though the FDA now has some concern about BPA’s safety, it claims it can’t do anything. The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that top FDA officials say that while BPA’s safety is uncertain, they are powerless to regulate it. Why? Because it is listed among some 3,000 chemicals that are “generally regarded as safe” and that designation exempts those chemicals from scrutiny.

As the FDA explains:

Current BPA food contact uses were approved under food additive regulations issued more than 40 years ago.  This regulatory structure limits the oversight and flexibility of FDA.  Once a food additive is approved, any manufacturer of food or food packaging may use the food additive in accordance with the regulation.  There is no requirement to notify FDA of that use. For example, today there exist hundreds of different formulations for BPA-containing epoxy linings, which have varying characteristics.  As currently regulated, manufacturers are not required to disclose to FDA the existence or nature of these formulations.  Furthermore, if FDA were to decide to revoke one or more approved uses, FDA would need to undertake what could be a lengthy process of rulemaking to accomplish this goal.

So, FDA is going to study BPA some more. And it is looking for some legislative help so that it can regulate BPA, at least according to the officials quoted by the Milwaukee Sentinel. But that doesn’t help the rest of us very much if we are looking for ways to avoid BPA exposure, particularly if you are pregnant, or have young children.

And it isn’t very satisfying that at this late date, more than 10 years after leading scientists questioned BPA’s safety, that the FDA is reaching this decision but taking the position it can’t do anything. More stalling at the behest of the chemical industry?

The American Chemistry Council continues to proclaim that BPA is perfectly safe, because, as the ACC always says, BPA has not been proven harmful to children or adults. The FDA held a conference call on Friday for some media to discuss BPA. And while I was not invited, I avidly followed one of the journalists who was tweeting the call. And she kept tweeting statements of the ACC representative about how safe BPA was and how all the studies were flawed because they failed to account for human metabolization of BPA. When I tweeted at her to ask about the fact that infants under 3 months lack the full complement of enzymes necessary to metabolize BPA (and fetuses have none), the ACC representative completely dismissed the scientific studies. If you don’t know who the ACC is, it is an organization whose members include Monsanto, Bayer, Merck, DuPont and many others. And the FDA has been accused of being too cozy with the chemical industry lobbyists, including the chair of the FDA panel taking a $5 million donation.

And to be honest, the FDA’s reversal really annoys the heck out of me after FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD’s article, Andy’s Take on BPA from August of 2008. In his article, he stated that “with progress comes peril!” He then argued that “science creates these products and science must inform us of their risks.” So, he contended that until science showed us that BPA was unsafe, we should assume that it is safe. Which seemed like a bunch of bunk to me. If you believe that “with progress comes peril”, then it seems to me that you would take a cautious approach, and instead have science inform us that a chemical was safe before it was used.

So what can you do if you want to avoid BPA? Well, skip polycarbonate plastic and avoid canned foods and beverages. And you really might want to, particularly if you are pregnant. In a non-scientific CBS Early Show experiment, Kelly Wallace ate a sandwich made from canned tuna, and had her blood drawn. She then spent 2 days avoiding BPA, and had her blood drawn again. The first set of blood samples showed a BPA level five times higher than what is found in the average US woman. 

To avoid canned foods and beverages, go for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred in glass or a plastic other than polycarconate. Polycarbonate is in the #7 “other plastic” group. Not all #7 plastic is polycarbonate, however. If you need BPA free feeding gear for kids and babies, check out my dear friend’s website, The Soft Landing. If you need a guide, check out Z Recommends’ The ZRecs Guide for advice on BPA-free children’s products.

Why you need to stop using disposable plastic-how the ocean garbage patches will grow

I’ve posted before about the plastic garbage patches in the ocean. I’ve talked about how Beth from My Plastic-free Life (formerly Fake Plastic Fish) is my hero – she lives a life free from most disposable plastic . And I’ve rallied against polyethylene plastic beads in body scrubs.

If none of that has persuaded you to eliminate at least some disposable plastic, then watch this.

Maximenko’s Plastic Pollution Growth Model from 5 Gyres on Vimeo.

Health Canada Reports BPA Free Baby Bottles Leach Bisphenol A?

Last week, it was reported that Health Canada had found some allegedly bisphenol A (BPA) free baby bottles nonetheless leached BPA. Well, upon further digging, it appears that very low levels of BPA were found in fluid held in some BPA free baby bottles, but that the source may simply be BPA in “dust” from manufacturing or perhaps even the lab or some other problem. The report has numerous critics, and not just from industry. Truly, it appears that the study has significant flaws. In any event, I was going to prepare a long, detailed post but, thank god, Jennifer and Jeremy at Z Recommends already did it. So, I’m just going to link to their most awesome, detailed, incredible post digging into the story. Go read it.

And if you are tired of worrying about what is in your baby’s plastic bottles or sippy cups, you can try glass or stainless steel. Check out OrganicKidz stainless steel baby bottles, for example.

This is the unique URL for this post. Please click before sharing.

Bookmark and Share