By Mariah Blake
Many BPA-free plastics leach BPA-like chemicals that are potentially damaging to human health, a dilemma Mother Jones explored in our expose on the plastics industry earlier this year. But consumers have had no way of knowing which of the items lurking in their pantries might wreak havoc on their hormones. Until now. A new paper in the journal Environmental Health identifies specific plastic products—including AVENT baby bottles, CamelBak sippy cups, and Lock & Lock food storage containers—that leach estrogen-mimicking chemicals. Perhaps more importantly, it also names a few options that are hormone free.
Between 2010 and 2013, scientists from CertiChem, a private lab in Austin, tested 50 reusable BPA-free plastic containers. In most cases, they used a line of human breast cancer cells that multiplies in the presence of estrogen, as well as substances like BPA that mimic the female hormone. The researchers found that some products leached hormone-altering chemicals even before being exposed to conditions, such as heat from a dishwasher or microwave, that are known to unlock potentially toxic chemicals inside plastic. And most containers did so under some circumstances. After exposure to the type of ultraviolet rays that are found in sunlight (UVA) and used to sterilize baby bottles (UVC), more than three quarters of the containers tested released synthetic estrogens. The chart below shows the results for a sampling of products before and after UV exposure.
Many of the items above are advertised as healthy alternatives to plastics containing BPA and the hormone-altering chemicals known as phthalates. Born Free markets its baby products as the “natural choice for moms who want a safe, calm experience every time they feed their baby.” Weil Baby claims that its bottles are made from “revolutionary new materials” that are “ultra-safe.” After UV exposure, CertiChem’s study found that both companies’ products leached potent synthetic estrogens. (Born Free declined to comment on these findings, but Laura Monaghan, the company’s senior director of brand development, said via email that “Born Free products comply with all applicable federal safety standards and are tested by independent third-party laboratories to confirm compliance.” Weil Lifestyle said that it severed its licensing agreement with the company that makes its Weil Baby bottles in 2011, although the products are still on the market.)
The study doesn’t name the chemicals involved or reveal how exactly they affect human health. But a 2012 literature review by 12 prominent scientists found “substantial evidence” that hormone-altering chemicals are damaging, even at minute doses. BPA, the most studied estrogen-mimicking compound, has been linked to a long list of maladies, including to asthma, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD. In some cases, the effects appear to be handed down, meaning the chemical reprograms an individual’s genes and causes disease in future generations.
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Curated from www.motherjones.com