Thursday, October 28, 2010

BPA - is it a threat to health?

A recent article in Dr Gupta's CNN blog, carries the frightening headline "BPA may reduce sperm count". It goes on to detail a study in China of workers in plastics factories who had lower sperm counts (and high blood levels of BPA). The problem with this study is those workers are exposed to the chemical in a way that we will never be, from drinking from plastic bottles.

And yet, one wonders - how much chemical does leech into the substance in the plastic bottle? Do all plastic bottles leech BPA into your drink or food?

BPA is short for bisphenol-A, a chemical used in clear plastic. It has lately been loosely linked with numerous problems including obesity, cancer, brain damage and early puberty.

It is true that girls are exhibiting earlier puberty these days but that also could be attributed to other factors - pharmaceutical estrogen which is widely used for birth control and HRT, has been found in drinking water (it is thought to be excreted in the urine), and pollution in the atmosphere has also been suspected as a factor. So how much of the earlier development can be linked to BPA? No one knows.

As for obesity, here the links are very vague and much more likely factors can be named such as labor saving devices (our grandparents burned a whooping 800 calories more daily than we do, just in executing housework etc), and foods which are delicious but extremely high calorie while not being particularly filling. Lending fuel to those reasons is the lack of obesity found in environments which do not have easy access to fancy and fast foods and do not have labor saving devices like cars and automatic washers (for example, the PIMAs of Mexico who still live the same way they lived 1000 years ago).

Cancer? Well, here again, there are many factors have been strongly linked to it, including heredity, use of tobacco and alcohol, pollution in the air, synthetic estrogen and even some medications like those medications taken to lower cholesterol (statins).

So again, we are left with questions about BPA.

Even more concerning, is the fact that there is no way around plastic bottles - everything comes in it, from milk to water. So if plastic is really leeching into our food and causing health problems, where would we turn?

It seems in our modern society, rather than curing all the ills, we are often doing trade-offs like the vaccines which have been linked to the high incidence of autoimmune disorder in exchange for infectious disease. And I also wonder why some chemicals which happen to be popular or hot sellers are never mentioned in our many health warnings. Chemicals like aspartame which has been linked to brain cancer in 100 worldwide studies and is actually banned in some countries, or the preservative in vaccines which is a form of mercury, known to be extremely toxic, even in trace amounts. Or coffee, which contains caffeine, a stimulant which can, over a lifetime especially in larger quantities, disarray the dopamine in the brain, possibly leading to the development of Parkinson's disease (REF: PROZAC BACKLASH by J. Glenmullen, MD, NY,2005).

I would tend to think, if BPA is a player, it's a minor player in causing disease. But I guess it's more of a "stay tuned". Studies like the Chinese study of workers in plastics factories are not really telling us anything about the general public and BPA.

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