A new study published in Pediatrics finds that 3-year-old girls exposed in utero to bisphenol A (BPA), a product found in food and beverage packaging, have increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems. Girls whose moms had higher levels of BPA exposure during pregnancy were more anxious, hyperactive and aggressive than normal, although their symptoms weren’t serious enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis of anxiety or ADHD.
The researchers are not sure why the girls in the study were affected and the boys were not, but in an interview with CNN they speculate that, ” … when expectant mothers ingest BPA, the fetus absorbs the chemical and it may lead to more testosterone in girls, affecting how their organs develop in utero, which might explain why some girls develop behavioral problems.”
BPA is used to produce everything from beverage and food can linings to plastic bottles to the thermal paper used to print receipts. Previous studies have found that exposure to BPA may increase risk for diabetes and heart problems. In fact, concerns about BPA exposure have led both Canada and the European Union to ban the chemical’s use in the production of baby bottles. California passed a similar law this month when it banned BPA’s use in baby products, joining Connecticut, Washington, Maryland, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Vermont.
Of course, what’s frustrating about this study is that it serves to frighten all moms who may have had high exposure to BPA during pregnancy and whose children have emotional problems. The study was small, with only 244 subjects, and it doesn’t prove a direct link. There may be other factors at play, and I would hate for mothers to feel at fault or to blame if they have daughters with anxiety or ADHD. Meantime, larger studies are underway.
There are ways to reduce your family’s exposure to BPA, and we want to share a few of them with you here:
- Try to eat fresh foods, and not those packaged in cans or plastic. According to the Environmental Working Group, canned pastas and soups contain the highest levels of BPA residue.
- Don’t ever microwave foods in plastic containers. Instead use glass or ceramic.
- Avoid plastic bottles and other containers marked with the recycling code #7, which means they have BPA. Instead, buy products or containers that have the recycling labels #1, #2 or #4.
- Avoid all baby and toddler products with BPA, especially baby bottles. Some of the brands offering BPA-free bottles include Born Free, Think Baby, Green to Grow and Dr. Brown’s.
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