Study: Nearly 40% of Canned Goods Still Contain Gender-Bending BPA Chemical

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an endocrine disrupting chemical that is ubiquitous within our society. It was removed from baby bottles, sippy cups, and most cans of baby formula a number of years ago. But a recent study found that a lot of food packaging still contains the gender-bending substance.

Recently, the Center for Environmental Health tested more than 250 cans purchased at supermarkets and dollar stores for BPA in California, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Most of the cans were purchased at Kroger, Albertsons/Safeway, Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only.

Nearly 40% of the containers were found to contain the chemical. And while that’s less than 2 years ago, when it was 67%, it’s not exactly a small amount. [1]

The study found that 36% of Albertson’s, and 33% of Kroger’s “private label” food cans tested positive for BPA.

Charles Margulis of the Center for Environmental Health said:

“It’s still much too high. We need to get it down to zero.” [2]

BPA is used in the lining of cans, and some research indicates that low levels of it can seep into food.

According to the FDA, the current levels of BPA in food are safe. However, California recently added the substance to its Proposition 65 list as a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity.

Margulis said:

“BPA is known to cause birth defects, and it’s also linked to breast cancer, obesity, and many other serious health problems.”

Those facing the greatest health risks from BPA exposure may be low-income citizens who often rely on canned foods. The study revealed that more than half of the cans purchased at 99 Cents Only contained BPA. Past studies show that low-come communities have higher levels of BPA in their bodies than the rest of the population. [1]

Margulis commented:

“In many areas, dollar stores are the only places can go for fruits and vegetables.” [2]

Read: Are You Living in a Food Desert?

His advice is simple: buy fresh organic produce whenever possible.

BPA Facts

Source: Chemical & Engineering News

BPA is a synthetic hormone which mimics the female hormone estrogen, earning the chemical its reputation as a “gender-bender.” It has been associated with infertility, breast and reproductive system changes, and early puberty. [3]

Aside from hormonal and reproductive problems, BPA may also cause obesity, diabetes, behavioral changes in children, and resistance to chemotherapy treatments.

How to Reduce BPA Exposure

It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid BPA, but there are things you can do to reduce your family’s exposure:

  • Purchase baby formula in plastic, glass, or other non-metal containers. Choose powdered formula whenever possible, since the packaging contains less BPA, and the powder is diluted with fresh water. If you must buy your baby liquid formula, look for brands sold in plastic or glass containers, or one’s that explicitly say “BPA Free.”
  • Look for canned food labeled BPA-free, or buy food packed in glass jars or waxed cardboard cartons.
  • Repurpose old baby bottles, cups, dishes, and food containers marked with the letters “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all #7 polycarbonates contain BPA, but some of them do.
  • Never microwave food in plastic containers.

As much as 40% of store receipts may be coated in BPA as well, according to the Environmental Working Group. The chemical can rub off on hands or food items, and may be absorbed through the skin.

Source: Forbes

You can also limit your exposure to BPA through store receipts:

  • Say no to paper receipts when possible.
  • Keep receipts in an envelope.
  • Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
  • Wash your hands before preparing and eating food after handling a receipt.
  • Don’t recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues contaminate recycled paper.

Sources:

[1] Center for Environmental Health

[2] CBS News

[3] Environmental Working Group

Chemical & Engineering News

Forbes


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FDA Urged to Investigate Hazards of Chemical Phthalates in Food Packaging

Senator Chuck Schumer from New York issued a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on July 30, 2017, calling on the health regulator to launch a study into the consequences of using phthalates in food packaging. [1]

Earlier in July, a study revealed that boxed macaroni and cheese contain phthalates, including Kraft Mac & Cheese. Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting additives in plastics, used to make them soft and flexible.

Phthalates also lurk in fast food packaging, such as burger wrappers, soda cups, and fry cartons. In addition, they are found in beauty and cosmetic products, as well as in other consumer and industrial products.

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Studies have linked phthalates to:

  • Various cancers
  • Human reproduction and developmental problems
  • Damage to the male reproductive system
  • Birth defects
  • Behavioral problems in children
  • Miscarriages
  • Premature birth
  • Respiratory issues in children with bronchial obstruction, such as asthma. [2]

Schumer noted in his letter to Gottlieb that federal regulators have already banned 6 types of phthalates often found in “children’s toys and other child care products, like those to facilitate sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething.” [1]

He went on:

“To think that we have all this data on phthalate chemicals from doctors, scientists, health experts and other industries just sitting around, frozen like a beef patty and begging for the FDA to take it to the next appropriate level of scrutiny is worrisome for the consumer.

The studies are clear: the link between these chemicals does have an impact on the body, and not a very good one. That is why I am asking the FDA to launch a formal investigation into the fast food products that wrap our burgers or subs, hold our drinks and contain our leftovers.”

In the letter, Schumer included citations from studies published by the CDC and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as well as others showing that phthalates may cause thyroid and insulin problems in kids. Past research has also indicated that Americans who eat a lot of fast food have higher levels of phthalates in their bodies than those who rarely hit fast-food joints.

Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

Schumer wrote in the letter to Gottlieb:

“Consumers are not giving these everyday packaging products a second thought. They assume they are safe — and they should be, especially when their reach extends to millions upon millions of Americans.

The agency must now take a closer look at these products for the sake of consumers and their everyday health.” [3]

Sources:

[1] Newsday

[2] Environmental Working Group

[3] New York Daily News

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Natural Resources Defense Council


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200 Scientists Want Tougher Limits on Chemicals in Personal Care Products

In June of 2017, a group of 200 scientists and medical professionals called on the international community to ratchet up restrictions on the production and use of triclosan and triclocarban – 2 antimicrobial chemicals found in shampoos and cosmetics. They cite “extensive peer-reviewed research” which suggests the ingredients are potentially harmful. [1]

In late 2016, the FDA banned 19 chemicals in hand and body soap over concerns about their effect on human health and the environment. Despite the ban, dangerous chemicals are still commonly used in other personal care products.

A senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), David Andrews said:

“Other ongoing uses are not addressed by the recent FDA action, and more needs to be done.” [2]

The group of scientists and medical professionals said in a statement published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that the chemicals, which have been used for decades, should be reserved for use only in situations where there is an “evidence-based health benefit.” [1]

They added:

“Greater transparency is needed in product formulations, and before an antimicrobial is incorporated into a product, the long-term health and ecological impacts should be evaluated.”

There is evidence to suggest that triclosan and triclocarban, both endocrine-disruptors, persist in the environment, where they may harm aquatic life and other organisms. The group’s primary concern is that the chemicals’ pervasiveness may be contributing to antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance and the rise of deadly superbugs.

As endocrine-disruptors, triclosan and triclocarban can affect the hormone cycles and development of organisms. The chemicals have also been linked to increased susceptibility to allergens.

Source: Treehugger.com

The FDA regulates certain products containing triclosan, including cosmetics, toothpastes, shampoos, and soaps. But there are other products not regulated by the agency that also contain the gender-bending chemical, including clothing, credit cards, cutting boards, blankets, mattresses, bathtubs, furniture, and toys. Furthermore, there is no limit on the use of triclosan and triclocarban in household or building products. [2]

Andrews said:

“For decades, the American public has been led to believe that antimicrobial products would make us healthier and safer.” [1]

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Label These Chemicals

The group wants the chemicals to be listed on labels of all consumer products that contain them. Additionally, it wants the FDA and the EPA to restrict unnecessary use. It notes in its statement that some companies, including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have already begun phasing out triclosan and triclocarban. [2]

The American Cleaning Institute and the Personal Care Products Council maintain that scientific evidence is on their side, and shows their products are safe and effective, and do not contribute to antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance. Both groups warn that banning or restricting the chemicals may lead to an increase in infections and disease. [1]

Studies show, however, that triclosan-containing soaps work no better than regular hand soap at killing germs.

Sources:

[1] Chicago Tribune

[2] Health Day

Treehugger


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More Wildlife Fish are Experiencing ‘Intersex’ – What Could be Causing This?

More wildlife are experiencing strange reproductive abnormalities, but why? In a study released last year, the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) tested male smallmouth and largemouth bass from 19 National Wildlife Refuges. The researchers found that 85% of the smallmouth bass “had signs of female reproductive parts.” Of the largemouth bass, 27% were intersex. What could be causing this?

Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist and lead author of the paper, says:

“It is not clear what the specific cause of intersex is in these fish. This study was designed to identify locations that may warrant further investigation. Chemical analyses of fish or water samples at collection sites were not conducted, so we cannot attribute the observation of intersex to specific, known estrogenic endocrine—disrupting chemicals.”

Referencing an older study also examining examining Intersex occurrence in freshwater fishes in the U.S. between 1995 and 2004, Fred Pinkney, a USFWS contaminants biologist and study coauthor, said:

“The results of this new study show the extent of endocrine disrupting chemicals on refuge lands using bass as an indicator for exposures that may affect fish and other aquatic species. To help address this issue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encourages management actions that reduce runoff into streams, ponds and lakes — both on and off of refuge lands.”

Possible Chemical-Culprits

As Pinkney mentioned, chemical runoff could be a real issue here. There are a number of chemicals and contaminants that could be contributing to these reproductive problems, including:

Glyphosate and atrazine are 2 agricultural chemicals made by Monsanto and Syngenta. These widely-used chemicals leak into U.S. lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs. Multiple studies also show that they are endocrine disruptors that may negatively affect reproductivity. [1]

According to a fact sheet on atrazine from Michigan State University:

“Atrazine is used on crops such as sugarcane, corn, pineapples, sorghum, and macadamia nuts, and on evergreen tree farms and for evergreen forest regrowth. It has also been used to keep weeds from growing on both highway and railroad rights-of-way. Atrazine can be sprayed on croplands before crops start growing and after they have emerged from the soil.”

The herbicide then seeps into lakes and waterways. Some of it moves from the surface into deeper soil layers, where it contaminates the groundwater.

MSU continues:

“Only a few reports are available that examine the health effects of atrazine in humans. Some of these reports suggest that atrazine could affect pregnant women by causing their babies to grow more slowly than normal or by causing them to give birth early. However, the women in these studies were exposed to other chemicals in addition to atrazine, so it is not known how or if atrazine may have contributed to these effects.

Atrazine has been shown to cause changes in blood hormone levels in animals that affected ovulation and the ability to reproduce. These effects are not expected to occur in humans because of specific biological differences between humans and these types of animals. Atrazine also caused liver, kidney, and heart damage in animals; it is possible that atrazine could cause these effects in humans, though this has not been examined.”

Glyphosate – the other hormone disruptor –has been found in human urine, blood, and even breast milk, as corroborated by three different studies. Although biotechnology company Monsanto refutes the evidence of glyphosate’s possible negative impact on reproduction (based on non-human studies), other studies have shown that the chemical could hamper the reproductive systems of animals, including female Jundiá, zebrafish, and rats. [2] [3] [4]

Still, some research suggests that it may not be the worst culprit:

“The primary objective of our study was to measure the stress response in juenile largemouth bass, micropterus salmoides, that were exposed to the following aquatic herbicides: diquat, endothall, 2,4-D, fluridone, and glyphosate (Rodeo).

An analysis of glucose and osmolality levels showed that the intensity and the rate of occurrence of the stress response varied with each herbicide. These differences were also associated with the concentration of the herbicide and the length of exposure. Of the five herbicides tested, glyphosate elicited the lowest stress response in the bass. This response was not related to either dose or exposure period … 2,4-D elicited the most intense stress response in the bass … The magnitude of the stress response was greater for 2,4-D than for any other herbicide tested.

The results of this study suggest that of the aquatic herbicides tested, glyphosate and endothall may be the least stressful herbicide to juvenile largemouth bass.”

The quantity of glyphosate in the environment has been difficult to analyze due to its physicochemical properties, such as its relatively low molecular weight and low organic solvent solubility.

However, an innovative study used a magnetic particle immunoassay to test for the presence of glyphosate in roughly 140 samples of groundwater from Catalonia, Spain. The analysis, published in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, found that glyphosate was present “above the limit of quantification” in 41% of the samples. This indicates that “despite manufacturer’s claims, it does not break down rapidly in the environment, and is accumulating there in concerning quantities.”

Needless to say, more research is needed.

The earlier referenced study examining Intersex occurrence in freshwater fishes in the U.S. between 1995 and 2004 mentions other chemicals, though doesn’t pinpoint them as the causes:

“Total mercury, trans-nonachlor, p,p?-DDE, p,p?-DDD, and total PCBs were the most commonly detected chemical contaminants at all sites, regardless of whether intersex was observed.”

What we can probably conclude is that the presence of these endocrine disruptors in our most protected waters – those of our National Wildlife Refuges – is likely threatening wildlife, and we should take further measures to protect the animals and environment as a whole.

Sources:

Environmental Health News

[1] Toxics.usgs.gov

[2] Pubmed/21783773

[3] Pubmed/24364672

[4] ScienceDirect


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