Does BPA free or Phthalates free mean it’s Safe?
We have seen numerous ads ranging from plastic baby bottles to plastic containers claiming that they are BPA free and phthalates free. Although this may be a good sign, it is definitely misleading to the consumer. The real question that should be in the minds of consumers is this: Do plastic products advertising that they are BPA free or phthalates free mean that they are also “safe” from hormonal activity?
The answer is an emphatic NO! This was substantiated by a study published in the July 2011 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives: “Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals a Potential Health Problem that Can Be Solved” by Yang et al. (Click to view the study.)
Environmental hormones are not exactly hormones but chemicals that mimic hormones in the human body. Consumers need to be educated about such chemicals known scientifically as “hormone disruptors” (a.k.a. endocrine disruptors). The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences best defines endocrine disruptors as chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife . One of these adverse effects is estrogenic activity (EA). When plastics are subjected to common stressors such as ultraviolet, radiation from sunlight, microwave radiation, and/or moist heat via boiling or dishwashing, the leaching of chemicals from plastics is often accelerated . Here are some of the most alarming quotes in the study mentioned:
- “In mammals, chemicals having EA can produce many health-related problems, such as early puberty in females, reduced sperm counts, altered functions of reproductive organs, obesity, altered sex specific behaviours, and increased rates of some breast, ovarian, testicular, and prostate cancers… Fetal, newborn and juvenile mammals are especially sensitive to very low doses of chemicals having EA.”
- “Products currently marketed as BPA free are not EA free“
- “…our data suggests that almost all commercially available plastic items would leach detectable amounts of chemicals having EA once such items are exposed to boiling water, sunlight (UV), and/or microwaving…”
- “BPA-free PET or PETG resins and products have recently been introduced as replacements for PC resins. However, all such replacement resins and products tested to date release chemicals having EA, sometimes having more EA than BPA-containing PC resins or products, especially when stressed by UV light.”
What this study has revealed may only be the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there are also additional studies that are beginning to address other environmental hormones such as chemicals that can mimic androgenic activity (AE) – testosterone , and even hormones that mimic prostaglandins which may also be found in plastic .
In summary, the public should be made aware and reminded of the “possible” dangers that plastics may bring. Banning BPA from products was only a first step of many that should follow. Unfortunately featuring the BPA free mark has led consumers to believe that BPA free means safe. But, as seen from the study above, estrogenic activity in plastics may even be more pronounced in those products that advertise BPA free compared to those that do not. One can thusly infer that there are other chemicals in plastics just as dangerous as BPA if not worse. Ultimately, there needs to be a grassroots campaign warning us about the chemicals in our plastics so that consumers do not forget that being inundated with BPA-free ads may bring about a false sense of security.
(Help Happy Baby USA get the word out, and link this article to other sites!)
- Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Jul;119(7):989-96. doi: 10.1289 Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Helath Problem that Can Be Solved/ehp.1003220. Epub 2011 Feb 24.
- Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jun;50(6):2196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.02.010. Epub 2012 Feb 17.
- Food Chem. 2013 Feb 15;136(3-4):1590-6. doi: 10.1016 Endocrine disruptor activity in bottled mineral and flavoured water. /j.foodchem.2012.01.115. Epub 2012 Feb 14.