TORONTO – A new study suggests exposure to the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) before birth could affect girls’ behaviour at age 3.
Preschool-aged girls whose mothers had relatively high urine levels of BPA during pregnancy scored worse but still within a normal range on behaviour measures including anxiety and hyperactivity than other young girls.
The results are not conclusive and experts not involved in the study said factors other than BPA might explain the results. The researchers acknowledge that “considerable debate” remains about whether BPA is harmful, but say their findings should prompt additional research.
What’s the risk?
Some studies on animals have suggested that low levels of exposure to BPA early in life can affect neural development and behaviour.
The compound often imitates estrogen in animals once it is consumed, raising concerns that, if it exhibits the same characteristic in humans, it could increase the risk of breast cancer and earlier onset of puberty in females.
Canada was the first country in the world to crack down on BPA, and has declared the substance toxic.
Five things you need to know about BPA:
(1) BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a common chemical found in plastic. It has been used for decades by manufacturers to harden plastics.
(2) 90 per cent of us already have BPA in our system.
Canadians are consistently exposed to the chemical, even though it is quickly excreted from the body. International studies show that one to three micrograms of BPA per litre of urine is the typical level seen in adults. Canadians are on the lower end of that scale, averaging about 1.6 micrograms.
(3) BPA gets into our system by eating foods that have been in containers made with BPA, and is also picked up through the air, dust, and water.
As a safety precaution, the Canadian government banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in 2008 after studies showed most babies were exposed to BPA leaching through the lining of cans into liquid infant formula. But the substance is still used as a liner inside almost all food and beverage containers in Canada. Dental sealants and white fillings also contain small amounts of BPA.
Pediatric dentists say the amount of BPA used in children’s mouths is too small to cause a problem, but the Canadian Dental Association is advising members to start searching for BPA-free dental materials.
(4) It is unclear how small amounts of BPA affect human health.
Various studies warn of the possible effects BPA exposure could have on your health, including increased risk of cancer, heart problems, diabetes, and brain problems. However, there is no direct evidence that BPA is the cause of these problems.
(5) Limiting your exposure to BPA is possible.
Many manufacturers produce BPA-free products, like baby bottles and sippy cups. Many companies have also begun producing BPA-free infant formula. Choose containers made from glass or stainless steel rather than plastic. Throw out plastic containers that are cracked. Do not heat up plastic containers that could contain BPA.
With files from The Associated Press