November 30, 2009

AUSTRALIA: Plastics in the kitchen - how dodgy are BPA and phthalates?

. SYDNEY, NSW / Sydney Morning Herald / Life & Style / Home / Chew On This / November 30, 2009 By Paula Goodyear It's one thing to read a food label and be warned off by too high levels of salt or saturated fat, but how can you tell if a plastic food container, a drink bottle - or a can of beans - contains a chemical you'd rather avoid? In recent years studies in animals have linked bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastics, to health problems and even to increased obesity. BPA is what's called an endocrine disruptor, meaning it's a chemical that can mimic the effects of hormones - and therefore disrupt the actions of hormones in humans and animals. But it's not just animal studies that have rung alarm bells - UK research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year reported that tests in 1,455 adults found that the more BPA in their urine, the higher their rates of heart disease and diabetes. Should we be worried? That depends on who you ask. The fact sheet on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website is reassuring - the levels of BPA that we're exposed too are unlikely to cause problems, even to babies drinking from bottles containing BPA, it says. The fact that Canadian authorities have phased out use of BPA in babies' bottles is because 'there are some risk managers who prefer to take a more cautious approach', according to Dr Paul Brent, the Chief Scientist for FSANZ. Dr Brent also points out that the levels of BPAs used in rat studies were much higher than the levels that humans are exposed to - and that the same problems that occurred in rats didn't happen in similar research with primates. [rc] Copyright © 2009. Fairfax Digital.