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Bisphenol A and Phthalates

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How dangerous are these chemicals to human health?



In May 2008, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA declared that Bisphenol A (BPA) was not a risk to human health and exposure from plastics in food containers and other plastics are "below those that may cause health effects," according to FDA testimony before a Senate committee.

In January 2010, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA revised its earlier statement about Bisphenol A (BPA) above and is now cautioning parents to keep plastics away from their babies, infants and children based on the results of recent studies which had used more “novel” approaches to detect the more subtle, but adverse effects of BPA on human health.

In October 2008, the Canadian Government declared Bisphenol A a ‘dangerous substance’ and started to work on legislation that will prohibit the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA). In addition to this, the Canadian government intend to take steps which limit the amount of bisphenol A that is released into their environment.

In 2006, the Danish Environment Protection Agency provided new guidelines for pregnant and lactating mother to help them reduce their exposure of Bisphenol A and phthalates, based on the results of many experiments showing how detrimental these chemicals are on the health of the unborn foetus and growing child, especially because the effect is from cumulative and continuous exposure.

While this is a positive approach it is simply the start, because it is not only BPA that can cause these effects, it is also a class of chemicals called phthalates, which are also known endocrine disruptors and which also have known detrimental effects on human health.

What is Bisphenol A and How Does it Impact Human Health?

Bisphenol A is a chemical which has been developed and added to plastics for the past 60 years.

The chemicals that are used to make plastics are – Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates as well as a number of other chemicals.  The BPA continuously leeches out of the plastic, at the same rate, over the lifetime of the plastic (whatever it is).  This is a given.

Previously, the health agencies advised that BPA did not impact on human health because people were exposed at such low levels and this did not have an adverse effect on health as the body was able to excrete it without any harmful effects.  This has since been shown to be not true where BPA is concerned.  Even a small, minute exposure, if it is continuous and occurs over a long time is associated with adverse health effects. Continuous and higher exposure over a long period has even worse health outcomes.

Bisphenol A is known as an endocrine (hormone) system disruptor. This means that is associated with blocking the proper function of the hormones in the body, but particularly the sex hormones (eostrogen, testosterone). If the hormones are not functioning as they should be, this can cause a whole rage of health conditions.

BPA acts as a xenoestrogen, which means it behaves as if it has eostrogenic properties, all over the body. The BPA attaches to the eostrogen receptors in the body and it can turn on, turn off or change the signal that the receptor sends out to the body. The BPA can completely alter normal hormone levels by blocking them or causing them to be activated in excessively high or low levels.  All of the bodily functions which are controlled by those hormones get affected by the abnormal hormone levels (too much, too little or none at al) and this is how endocrine disruptors can affect health.

Altering the normal effect of the hormones in the body may cause a number of health conditions, especially reproductive disorders and even neurological damage to the developing brain (of the foetus or child).  Since the endocrine system controls basically every aspect of the body, from metabolism, to fertility, to development of sex organs, any changes to the hormone levels can have an adverse impact.

Interestingly, BPA was studied in the 1940’s as a possible replacement for eostrogen in women who were going through menopause, but was not used in favour of other synthetic eostrogens.

The issue is not exposure from one source, the issue is cumulative exposure from multiple sources, which means the body cannot excrete the Bisphenol A at all because people are simply bombarded with this chemical in just about everything they touch, use and eat.


What are Phthalates and How Do they Impact Human Health?

Phthalates are a class of chemicals which are used as plasticisers, to soften plastics and make them more pliable. They are often used with PVC (a known carcinogen) to soften it and they are also found in cosmetics and personal care products, including lotions, creams, sun care, hair care and other types of personal care and personal hygiene products.

Phthalates are extremely common in our environment because they are used in so many products people use.  There are numerous phthalates that have been developed for use in plastics.

Phthalates are also known as endocrine disruptors as they disrupt the fine balance of hormones in the body (which are normally released in very small amounts by the endocrine organs and tissues) and this can also impair reproduction and development of the foetus and are implicated in a number of health conditions.

As with Bisphenol A, phthalates were thought to be harmlessly excreted out of the human body quite quickly without any adverse effects, but this again, is thought to be not the case.  Scientists now think that even a small amount of phthalates on a continuous basis over a long period is the issue to health.  Studies so far have shown that blood levels of phthalates in people (especially children) are a lot higher than have been previously reported or expected, often greatly exceeding the upper daily limit that has been specified for humans and this is a huge concern.  Research has shown that women between the ages of 20-40 have over 45 times more phthalates in their body than is either tolerable for good health or was previous hypothesised.

The issue is not exposure from one source, the issue is cumulative exposure from multiple sources, which means the body cannot excrete the phthalates at all because people are simply bombarded with this chemical in just about everything they touch, use and eat.

According to the US National Library of Medicine web site Tox Town, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as a substance "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the Eleventh Report on Carcinogens, published by the National Toxicology Program.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are currently studying several other phthalates and have stated that seven of these pose “minimal” concern for causing reproductive problems, but that one of those phthalates, di-n-butyl phthalate, may adversely affect human reproduction or development.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have also stated that high levels of exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate in people who have medical tubing or other plastic devices inserted, especially for feeding, breathing or medication in newborn infants may have an adverse effect on the male newborn babies' health. It seems likely that the same adverse effect occurs in adults who are exposed to the medical tubing inserted for feeding, breathing or medication.

In 2003, the European Union created a directive to ban all phthalates in cosmetics that are sold in Europe due to the overwhelming evidence about adverse health effects.  There is no such ban in Australia, USA or UK.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has produced two web sites to help people understand exactly what they are putting on their body:

Bisphenol A and Phthalates May Increase Risk for Certain Health Conditions

Countless studies show that Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates have a detrimental effect on human health and in particular, both have been shown to impact it in the following ways by increasing risk of the following conditions (listed alphabetically):

Where Can You Find Bisphenol A and Phthalates

Both BPA and phthalates are everywhere and impact people in so many ways because of the exposure from multiple sources:


How to Reduce Your Exposure to Bisphenol A and Phthalates

Both BPA and phthalates are everywhere and impact people in so many ways due to exposure from multiple sources and because of this it is difficult to reduce exposure from all sources, but it is possible to reduce the main sources:


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Last reviewed: 20 January 2010|| Last updated: 20 January 2010


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To learn more about how Bisphenol A and phthalates can affect you, try these reliable web sites:

NOTE: Mega doses of any type of vitamin, mineral, amino acid or herbal supplement cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of complementary supplements.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.

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