BPA in Plastic Baby Bottles: Behind the Headlines
By Dr. Jennifer Hanes
It has become fashionable to shun the use of BPA in plastics, but there are real dangers involved with this movement.
BPA, the common term for Bisphenol-A, is an organic compound used in lots of common products from thermal receipts to plastic sports equipment. BPA is added to plastics to make the products virtually shatterproof. These products range from baby bottles to eyeglass lenses. Plastics made from this compound are also used as a liner in almost all cans and bottles because of its ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria, thus extending the safety and shelf-life of our foods and beverages.
Despite this chemical being in use for almost eighty years, reports began to surface around 2008 associating BPA with lots of ailments from obesity to tumors. The most recent study draws a conclusion that ingesting BPA during pregnancy causes behavior disorders in children. The downfall of these studies is they rely on a correlation rather than showing a cause and effect. It is akin to claiming that increases in crime also cause the sales of ice cream to rise. This statement is a correlation, because both events are more common during the hottest months of the year, rather than directly related to one another. Without the missing link of realizing those two events are connected by weather, many incorrect conclusions are inferred.
The data many researchers use as “evidence” of BPA ingestion is by detecting it in the urine. As a physician, this measurement is not of significance because it is excreted from the body, meaning it is unbound and has not remained within to create the metabolic chaos that has been inferred. By definition, being water soluble and excreted in the urine means the BPA that is measured is not being stored in fat and left to accumulate in our bodies as claimed by some groups.
With this understanding, let us examine the recent report about the exposure of BPA during pregnancy and behavioral problems later reported in children. This is a correlation and there is no data, at all, that can demonstrate a causative effect. Additionally, it does not explore other reasons, like the summer months in the example above. What if we considered that women with higher levels of BPA excretion, were by definition, eating more processed foods? Could there be reasons that pregnant moms without time to prepare healthful meals, might also be under more stress than say a mom able to nourish her body with fresh fruits and vegetables? What if her exposure to BPA occurred while working as a cashier? Could it be possible that a mom working as a cashier (exposed to the BPA from the thermal receipts) might have less time or energy to nurture her children than a stay-at-home mom? I am NOT stating these are reasons or even that they represent a defined trend. I am simply suggesting that the investigation be widened to include other possible causes before we blame a chemical that has actually improved most of our lives, literally everyday.
While we are researching this, however, please allow me to share a very real, very prominent danger of living “BPA-free.” In response to the bad-press of BPA, many parents have chosen to forego plastic bottles for their children. Resultantly, many are drinking from glass bottles. How do I know? Because I stitch the faces of these precious angels when their bottle shatters and lacerates their skin. Sometimes, they only have to endure the trauma of stitches to their hands or arms, but all too frequently they are drinking as they trip and fall resulting in glass shards in their faces. It still turns my stomach every time. As I ease their fears and meticulously repair the damage, I listen to the concerns of parents about how big and how permanent these scars will be. The trauma of receiving stitches takes quite an emotional toll on children and parents alike.
It would be impossible to say that BPA has absolutely no long-term effects, but neither do we have reliable evidence that it is the harmful chemical it has been deemed in headlines meant to drive up ratings rather than improve our understanding.
I DO know the fear of a suspected effect has driven many parents from the physical safety of plastic into the dangerous territory of glass containers. Scientists created BPA to help solve the problem of containers that shattered and keep us safe from broken glass and plastic. As I routinely fix the wounds of the children living with the consequences of a “BPA-Free” environment, I can’t help but wonder if avoiding an almost negligent chemical from fear of a potential risk, is really worth scarring a face for life?
Until there is compelling data that uses sound science, rather than fear and correlation to alarm the public, I strongly recommend plastic bottles to avoid the need for plastic surgery.
A board certified emergency physician, Jennifer Hanes, D.O., discovered that patients have greater success when they understand their bodies. With that unique philosophy, she founded Empowered Medicine, PLLC, where knowledge is powerful medicine. She empowers patients with her articles, motivational speeches and private consultations. You can learn more at www.DrHanes.com