Another study has reported harmful effects to children from exposure to bisphenol A (BPA). The new study has reported that exposure to the chemical can cause obesity and health problems in children. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. It appears on April 19 in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics.
BPA is an industrial chemical that is present in many hard plastic bottles as well as metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s. The chemical industry insists that the substance is safe and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declined to ban the chemical; however, a growing body of research, including the new study, suggests otherwise.
Fortunately, for California residents, food products that are marketed in containers with BPA must have a warning label. Effective April 11, 2013, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is adding BPA to the list of chemicals known to the State of California to cause reproductive toxicity for purposes of Proposition 65. Proposition 65 is a list of chemicals considered dangerous enough that products containing high amounts of them must carry warning labels. BPA now joins an infamous list of substances that are known to be toxic: lead, arsenic, asbestos, and tobacco smoke. Although the chemical is now on California’s list of toxic substances, healthcare analysts are fearful that manufacturers will find alternatives, which may be just as unhealthful. For example, vinyl, one of the most toxic plastics you can find, is commonly used in “BPA free” cans that contain tomatoes and tomato-based products. The acid in tomatoes dissolves the vinyl from the can lining; thus, it is ingested.
The University of Michigan researchers conducted a study to evaluate the relationship between BPA levels and measures of adiposity and chronic disease risk factors for a nationally representative US pediatric sample. They reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003–2010) to evaluate cross-sectional associations between urinary BPA and multiple measures of adiposity (fat tissue), cholesterol, insulin, and glucose for children aged 6 to 18 years, adjusting for relevant covariates (e.g., demographics, urine creatinine, tobacco exposure, and soda consumption).
The researchers found a higher odds of obesity (body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile) with increasing quartiles of BPA for quartiles 2 vs. 1 (1.74-fold increased risk), 3 vs. 1 (1.64-fold increased risk), and 4 vs. 1 (2.01-fold increased risk). They also found a higher odds of having an abnormal waist circumference–to–height ratio based on the four quartiles. They did not find significant associations of BPA with any other chronic disease risk factors.
The authors concluded that higher levels of urinary BPA were associated with a higher odds of obesity and abnormal waist circumference–to–height ratio. They recommended that longitudinal analyses (analyses over time) are needed to further clarify the relationships between BPA exposure and the development of obesity and chronic disease risk factors in children.
Take home message:
To be safe, it is best to purchase foods packaged in glass or cartons, which do not require linings, and avoid plastics and receipts (which are coated with a BPA-based resin that can rub off on your hands) as best you can. Fresh tomatoes are the most nutritious and safest; they are available year-round in California markets. If you purchase preserved tomatoes, select those that are in glass jars. It is a good practice to thoroughly read food labels.