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Plastic food containers: Are they making us fat?
Wednesday, November 26, 2003 5:00 am Email this article
MAYBE, suggests animal research. Mice weighed 10.6 percent more at weaning and entered puberty two days earlier when their mothers were exposed to small doses of a plastic compound during pregnancy (Raloff, 1997a).
The compound bisphenol A (BPA), a building block of polycarbonate plastics, mimics the effects of natural estrogens. BPA was added to the mothers’ food at 2 parts per billion for six days during pregnancy. This amount was meant to be similar to a normal persons exposure from all sources such as dental sealants and food in plastic-lined cans.
The researchers also found that BPA during pregnancy slightly altered the development of the testes and male reproductive organs. Researchers don’t know what effect BPA has in humans. Other researchers have reported that high concentrations of other estrogen-like pollutants alter children’s stature, behavior and intellectual development.
The results were presented at a government funded conference in Arlington, Va. on Estrogens in the Environment by Frederick S. vom Saal and colleagues from the University of Missouri in Columbia.
How much BPA do humans ingest?
Distilled water kept in plastic bottles for 9 months was contaminated with 5 parts per billion of BPA when left at room temperature for 9 months. BPA molecules are joined into long chains to make polycarbonate plastics. However, not every BPA molecule gets joined leaving some free and unbound.
John E. Biles and colleagues at the FDA in Washington, D.C., found that plastic baby bottles and juice caps contain from 7 to 47 mcg of free BPA per gram of plastic.
Heating tests to simulate sterilization showed 5 percent of the unbound BPA was released. Longer heating tests produced very high numbers and suggested that some plastics breakdown and free up more BPA.
? Raloff J. A pollutant that can alter growth. Science News, 1997a Oct 18, 152(16):255.
? Raloff J. Lacing food with an estrogen mimic. Science News, 1997b Oct 18, 152(16):255.
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