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Consider this: In the 1990s, the average age a little girl got breast buds — a precursor to puberty — was just shy of 11. Today the average age is about nine! More than one in ten girls start developing at seven. (Thanks @DrGreene for pointing this out!) How could this be? Some experts think it’s because of exposure to endocrine disruptors like Bisphenol A (BPA) found in plastics and can linings — the stuff we’re eating and drinking from.

This week, the Environmental Working Group confirmed BPA’s reach is getting wider, and affecting us before we are born. The organization’s tests found that BPA is present in nine out of 10 cord blood samples taken right after birth. Nine out of 10. Here’s the problem with BPA: It’s an endocrine disruptor. This means that, when your body is presented with both the real hormones –which are our body’s natural communicators that tell our systems what to do — and BPA, it chooses BPA. What does that mean? The Natural Resources Defense Council says it best: “This disruption can happen through altering normal hormone levels, halting or stimulating the production of hormones, or changing the way hormones travel through the body, thus affecting the functions that these hormones control.” A November study by health insurer Kaiser Permanente found that men who were exposed to high levels of BPA experienced sexual dysfunction. They had issues with “erectile function, ejaculation capability, sexual desire, and overall satisfaction with sex life.” The earlier the exposure, the worse it is, according to other researchers. Another study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation uncovered a potential “dramatic reduction of fertility in males.”

For females, according to researchers at North Carolina State University, BPA exposure has the opposite effect: Early puberty. Another study from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center links female BPA exposure to heart disease. A really scary study of mice out of the Endocrine Society found that mice exposed to BPA while still in the womb actually had changes of their DNA. And there has been study after study linking BPA to female infertility.

Academics and scientists — not groups prone to hysteria — have asked the FDA and U.S. government to limit BPA exposure, but to no avail. The chemical lobby in this country is just too strong. Some states aren’t waiting for the government to act. Minnesota has already banned BPA in baby bottles. Connecticut. Suffolk County, New York and Chicago have instituted their own bans.

So if states and counties are recognizing the dangers of BPA, what’s it going to take before our government stands up to big chemical companies and protects our babies and children? Who knows, but we only have to look at how long our government let Big Tobacco lie to us about the effects of smoking to get an inkling of what’s going on.

In my house, we’ve all got reusable stainless steel water bottles. I used glass baby bottles for Little Girl. If faced with a choice, I always go with the fresh veggies and fruit. I avoid plastic packaging and canned veggies in particular, since BPA linings in cans have been proven to leech into food. I’d implore all of you to do the same. You need to protect yourself and your family because it’s pretty clear that our government is taking a pass on this one. It’s such an embarrassment and shame.

Have you changed how you’re consuming plastic? Are you afraid of BPA? Would you ever have yourself or your family tested for exposure? I’d love to know.

6 Responses to “BPA Stands for Bad Plastics Assault (in My Book)”

  1. Jen Singer says:

    It’s also in the water. I heard on NPR from a NY Times journalist that there are fish in various waterways near chemical companies that dump into the water that nearly all the males have eggs now.

  2. Julie says:

    Karen I am convinced that these endocrine disruptors are the reason for the high rate of autism today. If our girls are hitting puberty early, imagine what the increased hormones are doing to our lil boys. Just my non-scientific point of view.

    I have eliminated all plastics from our home and only drink water from glass bottles. We try not to store food in plastic containers and especially not the disposable kind and never put plastics in the microwave. I’m sure my 4 y.o was massively exposed to BPA in her early years, but my 7 month old has not. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a big difference in their development

  3. Alexandra says:

    I am so glad you are blogging about this, but distressed there are not more comments. I run a green B&B on Cape Cod and have been blogging about a local attempt to stop NStar from spraying herbicides under the power lines, since traces of toxic chemicals will end up in our drinking water, from private wells. And just today Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed on the possible link between plastic and cancer. You are absolutely right. The chemical industry is strong. We bloggers need to spread the word to increase the likelihood of change at a legislative level. I am very worried about the world my granddaughter will inherit!

  4. Amy says:

    I work with NYR Organic, an organic skincare co and they have done so much research on this!!! “Since the 40′s and 50′s over 80,000 new chemical compounds have been introduced into the market place, with limited to NO testing on their safety for people and the environment!!!!” I might be paraphrasing a bit, but that is directly from one of our scripts! I cannot believe that the world has allowed this and we have to stop it for our kids and grandkids…

    Karen, the more I read your blog and the more I work with NYR, the greener I am getting! Thanks

  5. Kathy says:

    This *is* a huge problem, and our current toxins regulatory scheme is hopelessly inadequate for addressing it. For starters, the chemical manufacturers supply their own safety data (there’s no independent verification), and the manufacturers use an assumed exposure for only one chemical at a time. Human blood sampling has shown that exposures to some chemicals (including BPA) are in some cases much higher than these assumptions. And, as we all know, we are exposed to dozens if not hundreds of chemicals daily, and no one is looking at the combined effects.
    We’ve all moved to reusable stainless water bottles at home, too.

    Finally, on a totally unrelated note: I accidentally deleted a comment you posted on my own blog. Huge apologies, and hope you find your way back there some time and repost.

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by NaturalasPosMom: http://naturalaspossiblemom.com/2009/bpa120209 Everyone see today’s news? BPA in 9 out of 10 cord blood samples? Here’s why you should care….

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