It seems as if you can’t look at the news today and find some sort of story about bisphenol A (BPA), an organic compound that is used in the manufacture of hard plastics, especially polycarbonate plastic (PCP). Scientists have determined that BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics the effects of the hormone estrogen. Consequently, it can act as an anti-androgen and affect sexual development in fetuses and newborns, even in small quantities, potentially leading to health problems.

The use of BPA in food or beverage containers poses a serious problem to the public’s health because it can leach into whatever substance it comes in contact with. As a result, BPA is alarmingly prevalent in our bodies, and because it is used extensively in infant feeding bottles, babies are particularly at risk.

With this in mind, researchers set out to better understand the nature of how exposure to the chemical from various sources was absorbed by people of different ages. What they found was that newborns and infants absorb the largest amounts of BPA, mainly through the consumption of milk or infant formula delivered by way of PCP bottles. While the amounts detected were below the recommended minimum exposure, scientists stress that even small amounts of BPA can have a significant impact on development in animal models.

The potential harmful effects of BPA had been previously investigated, but the current study, published in the journal Risk Analysis, is the first to consider how individual sources of the compound contribute to total exposure relative to one another. This exposure appears to decline as a person gets older, though age is not a definitive indicator, and certain factors can contribute to the problem. These include the excessive consumption of canned foods (BPA is used to line the inner surface of many cans to protect from corrosion), as well as the use of PCP containers to cook or reheat their food.

The authors acknowledge that the findings open the door for further inquiry, citing the need to better understand where exactly BPA is entering the food chain. In other words, does it come from the packaging that holds the food, or does it arise from the actually processing. More research needs to be done in conjunction with increased disclosure by the food industry.

Until a clearer picture of where our exposure to BPA is coming from, it seems like a good idea for parents to take steps to minimize their children’s exposure. To accomplish this reduction, parents need to employ a degree of vigilance that includes:

  • Reducing the amount of canned food you serve your kids.
  • Whenever possible, avoiding plastics, especially hard PCP, the ones with the #7 recycling symbol on the bottom. Try to use glass or ceramic, instead.
  • Eliminating the use of plastic containers when serving hot food or beverages.
  • Discarding worn or scratched PCP containers.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet determined with certainty that BPA is harmful to children or adults, there is enough scientific evidence for them to have reversed their position and call into question its safety, thereby joining many other countries that have either banned the chemical or voiced concern over its use.

For more information about BPA, visit the website for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.