Evidence mounts that endocrine disruptors cause harm; consumer groups call for mortorium while FDA does nothing
May 16, 2008
For years, I've been reporting on the suspected dangers of chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors, which are used in everyday consumer products.
An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that when absorbed into the body either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body's normal functions.
New studies link three endocrine disrupting chemicals and obesity.
Exposure during development either in the womb or during infancy to chemicals used to make products -- such as baby bottles, the lining of food cans, and some plastic food wraps and containers -- may contribute to the development of obesity, according to research presented recently at the European Congress on Obesity.
Scientists reported at the conference that mice exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals during pregnancy -- at levels either comparable to or approaching those that humans are exposed to -- produced offspring that became fat as adults and had altered gene and metabolic functions involved in regulating weight.
One of the chemicals under scrutiny is Bisphenol A, an ingredient in polycarbonate plastics, which has been in the news recently because it's used in some plastic water bottles.
Past research has found evidence that Bisphenol A leaches from plastic food containers and bottles, plastic wrap, and the resin that lines food cans.
In one study, Professor Beverly Rubin, a neuroendocrinologist at Tufts University, found that female mice whose mothers were exposed to Bisphenol A from early pregnancy through day 16 of lactation showed increased weight in adulthood.
Another chemical linked to obesity is perfluorooctanoic acid. The chemical is a grease-proofing agent used in hundreds of products from microwave popcorn bags to pizza box liners and other food containers.
An experiment found that when perfluorooctanoic acid was given to pregnant mice, their offspring were unusually small at birth then became overweight as adults, Suzanne Fenton, a research biologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reported at the conference.
A third chemical tributylin -- which is used in boat paint, in plastic food wrap, and as a fungicide on crops -- has been found to leach into food.
A study found that when scientists treated pregnant mice with tributylin at a dose comparable to that found in humans, a genetic program was switched on in the offspring that programs them to become fat later in life, said Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., a developmental biologist at the University of California at Irvine, in a presentation at the conference.
Meanwhile, the federal Food and Drug Administration is telling the public that they needn't be worried about Bisphenol A and its use in plastic baby bottles.
In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, FDA Associate Commissioner for Science Norris Alderson said the agency is relying on a large body of scientific evidence that shows the chemical can safely be used in plastics that hold food and beverages, according to an article by consumeraffairs.com.
Wal-Mart says it plans to drop baby bottles that contain it and Toys R Us is considering a similar move, the article also states.
The Work Group for Safe Markets -- a coalition of more than a dozen environmental and public health organizations such as the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice -- is calling for a moratorium and immediate phase out of the use of BPA in baby bottles and other food and beverage containers, according to the article, "Q&A: Baby Bottles and Bisphenol A," in the March 2008 issue of Consumer Reports.
For information on how to protect yourself from endocrine disruptors, see Endocrine Disruptors, a fact sheet from the National Resources Defense Council.
Also see The Endocrine Disruption Exchange for information.
Copyright 2008, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist
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