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Close to Home: BPA puts children at risk

  • (DONNA GRETHEN / Tribune Content Agency)

A recent article in The Press Democrat illustrates why pregnant women must be vigilant concerning environmental hazards (“Study: BPA may hike miscarriage risk,” Oct. 14) . For example, today's children face environmental hazards that can affect critical developmental milestones, particularly brain development.

According to a Northwestern Medical study in 2011, the number of American children leaving doctors' offices with an ADHD diagnosis has risen 66 percent in 10 years. Moreover, in 1970, the rate of autistic spectrum disorder was 1 in 1,000. In 2012, it was 1 in 88.

Chemical scientists are identifying BPA, or bisphenol, as a potential environmental hazard for childhood developmental disorders.

BPA can be ingested into our bodies through consumption of animal fat. For instance, harvested fish from contaminated sites are the main source of human BPA contamination. Researchers also have found that shellfish accumulate BPA as they filter plankton, and cows grazing on contaminated grasses and feed can transfer BPA into their fat, meat and milk.

Another potential hazard from BPA is that it is found in baby and water bottles and in sports equipment and is used for industrial purposes such as lining water pipes. Studies show that BPA is released when one heats plastic bottles or plastic food containers. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings on the inside of many food and beverage cans.

Since 2008, several government agencies have questioned how safe BPA is when used in plastic containers for the purpose of food storage.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which can mimic estrogen and has been shown to cause negative health effects in animal studies. In fact, early childhood developmental stages appear to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effect, and some studies have linked prenatal exposure to later physical and neurological difficulties.

A 2011 study that investigated the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed in the United States found BPA in 96 percent of women.

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