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Look What's in Plastics:
BPA, Phthalates and PVC's, Oh My
By Lawrence Rosen, MD
A new report in Pediatrics details babies’ widespread exposure to phthalates, a toxic chemical used to “soften” PVC plastic, connected with cancer and hormonal disturbances. This news follows a report from the Environmental Working Group that BPA (bisphenol A) is leaching readily into baby formula from the cans it's stored in. Heating the formula up in plastic baby bottles (as many parents do, either in the microwave or in boiling water) greatly increases the amount of BPA that leaches in. BPA is increasingly recognized as an endocrine-disrupting toxin. The rising incidence of early puberty could be linked to the increased use of plasticizers in products and in our food, water, and air. The most recent discovery is that prenatal exposure to BPA may be linked to adult hormonal cancers, like breast and prostate cancers. This is the “epigenetic phenomenon,” whereby prenatal environmental exposures alter DNA and genetic expression, leading to a damaging cycle that can be passed on and amplified over generations. More research into fetal origins of adult disease is needed, and it makes sense to take a precautionary view, eliminating exposures pre-natally and in infancy.
The plastics industry is beginning to sound a bit Wizard-of-Oz'ish amid growing recognition that environmental plastic exposures may be linked to numerous 21st century health concerns. In fact, mounting evidence shows that 1) toxic plasticizers are finding their way into formula and other infant products at alarming amounts and 2) the health effects of these chemicals may be more damaging and widespread than previously thought.
What are our options? Glass bottles, food containers and safer (if possible) plastics. (Click for related research and links on phthalates and PVC.) If this isn’t inspiration enough, read this report on dwindling boy:girl birth ratios in the Arctic, a true canary-in-the-coal mine scenario. It's time to be informed, raise awareness, and start putting pressure on industries (health care included) to reduce plastics use and create safer alternatives for both our children and our planet. Or you can just close your eyes, click your heels, and hope for the best. _____________________________________________________________________________
Adapted from The Whole Child: The Integrative Pediatrics Council Blog. For more on this and other children’s environmental health topics, see:
About Dr. Lawrence Rosen
Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen is a board-certified general pediatrician committed to family-centered, holistic child health care. He practices in northern New Jersey and is Section Chief, Pediatric Integrative Medicine, at Hackensack University Medical Center. He also serves as Medical Advisor to The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology. Dr. Rosen is a nationally recognized expert in Pediatric Integrative Medicine, acting as Chair of the Integrative Pediatrics Council, a non-profit foundation dedicated to transforming children's health care. Dr. Rosen is also a founding member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Provisional Section on Complementary, Holistic and Integrative Medicine. He is a frequent speaker at both professional and consumer gatherings, discussing topics such as holistic care of the newborn and the integrative management of autism.
Dr. Rosen is a graduate of New York Medical College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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