The chemical compound is found in water bottles and food packaging. Researchers have found that exposure to it enhances pregnant mothers' to have children who experience obesity in early childhood.
US – Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy, one of the chemicals commonly used in producing drinking bottles and food packaging has been associated with obesity in children. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspective, for the first time researchers have managed to prove a link between exposure to BPA during pregnancy (in 94% of women enrolled in the study was the presence of the chemical in the urine) and the body fat index of children (school age).
Bisphenol A is one of the most common chemicals and can now be found in many objects that are in everyday use, such as water bottles, and tin cans, thermal paper used for receipts. For some time there has been a concern among scientists that when it enters the body, BPA becomes disruptive-endocrine chemical compound that mimics or blocks hormones produced in the body. In addition, BPA has been linked also several other health effects in children such as asthma, concentration disorders, anxiety and depression, early puberty and childhood diabetes, obesity and heart disease in adults.
“This study provides evidence that exposure to BPA in the womb may be connected to sources of developmental obesity in children. The uniqueness in this study is that it relies on measures of body fat and BMI (body mass index), which takes into account only height and weight,” says Dr. Lori Hoffner, who led the study.
The researchers analyzed urine samples taken from 369 women during the term as well as the composition of the bodies of their children, as part of a long-term study that kept track of the children from being in the womb until they reached their early childhood.
The degree of exposure to BPA was determined using chemical concentrations in urine samples collected from the mothers during the third trimester and their children at the age; 3, 5 and 7 years old. They also measured the height and weight of children. Additional tests included waist circumference and body fat mass for children at age 7.
Once they filtered out distractions variables such as socioeconomic status and environmental factors, the researchers concluded that there is a positive association between exposure to BPA during pregnancy and the measure fat mass in the bodies of children – a combined index weighting body fat height, body fat percentage and waist circumference of children of 7 years of age. The children who were exposed while in the womb with high concentrations of BPA, also showed higher measures of fat mass.
Exposure affects more girls
When the researchers analyzed the data by gender, they saw that the effect of exposure to BPA on fat mass index and waist as the scope of the girls is significant. Among the boys, there was no association between exposure to BPA and body fat percentage. In addition, there was no association between exposure to BPA levels after birth (in childhood) and obesity – which the researchers say highlights the fact that pregnancy is a particularly sensitive period for exposure to this chemical.
“The proof that exposure to BPA during pregnancy is associated with measures of obesity in children may be a key factor in understanding the causes of the obesity epidemic,” said Dr. Andrew Randall one of the researchers. He added that chemicals like BPA are endocrine jammers may interfere with the metabolism of the baby and fat cells in early life.
To reduce exposure to BPA, the National Institute of Public Health Sciences (USA) recommends avoiding plastic packaging and replacing canned food for fresh or frozen food, and whenever possible, preferring glassware, porcelain or stainless steel for storing food and beverages, especially when they’re hot.
We would like to clarify that there has been an increasing number of many BPA-free products such as PET resin. BPA is only found in polycarbonate plastics. Bear in mind that some plastics marked with recycle codes 3 (PVC; polyvinyl chloride), 6 (PS; polystyrene) or 7 (polycarbonate, bioplastics and acrylic) are the ones which are most likely to contain BPA (especially #7). Safer choices are bottles with code 1 are made from PET resin, code 2; HDPE (high density polyethylene), code 4; LDPE (low-density polyethylene) and code 5; PP (polyproylene).