Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are what’s known as “endocrine disruptors”-that is, at very small doses they interfere with our hormonal systems, giving rise to all manner of health trouble. In peer-reviewed research, BPA has been linked to asthma, anxiety, obesity, kidney and heart disease, and more. The rap sheet for phthalates, meanwhile, includes lower hormones in men, brain development problems, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and, possibly, breast cancer.
So, ingesting these industrial chemicals is a bad idea, especially if you’re a kid or a pregnant woman. But avoiding them is very difficult, since they’re widely used in plastics, and are ubiquitous in the food supply. The federal government has not seen fit to ban them generally-although the FDA did outlaw BPA from baby bottles last year (only after the industry had voluntarily removed them) and Congress pushed phthalates out of kids’ toys back in 2008. Otherwise, consumers are on their own to figure out how to avoid ingesting them.
Unfortunately, that’s a really hard task-and eating fresh, local, and organic might not be sufficient, as new research (abstract), published in the peer-reviewed
Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, shows.
A team led by Sheela Sathyanarayana of University of Washington’s Seattle Children’s Research Institute performed a “dietary intervention” on two sets of five local families. After using urine tests to establish baseline BPA and phthalate levels for each group, they subjected one set of families to five days of eating meals from a catering company that avoids plastics and uses fresh and, when possible, local and organic ingredients. The other set was given “handouts describing best practice recommendations to reduce phthalate and BPA exposures” and asked to follow them as well as possible as they prepared their meals over the course of the five days. Levels of the chemicals were then again measured after the five-day period.