Today’s children face dangerous environmental hazards that can affect critical developmental milestones, particularly brain development.
According to a Northwestern Medical study (2011), the number of American children leaving doctors’ offices with ADHD diagnosis has risen 66 percent in 10 years. Moreover, in 1970, the rate of autistic spectrum disorder was 1 in 1000; in 2012 it was 1 in 88! Chemical scientists are identifying BPA, or Bisphenol, as a potential environmental hazard for childhood developmental disorders.
BPA can be ingested into our bodies through consumption of animal fat. For instance, harvested fish from contaminated sites are the main source of human BPA contamination. Researchers have also found that shellfish accumulate BPAs as they filter feed plankton, and cows grazing on contaminated grasses and feed can transfer them into their fat, meat, and milk (Fitzpatrick, 2006).
Another potential hazard from BPA is that it is found in baby and water bottles, sports equipment and used for industrial purposes such as lining water pipes. Studies show that BPA is released when one heats plastic bottles or plastic food containers (HHS, 2008). Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings on the inside of many food and beverage cans. Since 2008, several government agencies have questioned how safe BPA is when used in plastic containers for the purpose of food storage.
BPA is an endocrine dispruptor, which can mimic estrogen and has been shown to cause negative health effects in animal studies (Rubin, B., 2011). In fact, early childhood developmental stages appear to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effect, and some studies have linked prenatal exposure to later physical and neurological difficulties. A 2011 study that investigated the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed in the U.S. found BPA in 96% of women (Environmental Health, 2012).
In September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance and recently the United States has finally banned BPA use in baby bottles.
Overall, experimental evidence supporting the negative health effects of BPA varies significantly across studies. Some studies have shown that BPA presents no health risks to the general population; however, others believe that BPA can cause numerous adverse effects. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food along with the US food and Drug Administration believe that current levels of BPA present no risk to the general population. However, experts in the field of endocrine disruptors have stated that an entire population may suffer adverse health effects from current BPA levels (Endocrine Society, 2009).
If hormone disruptors have shown to effect early onset of puberty in girls, what effect do other chemicals which disrupt our endocrine system and mimic hormones in our bodies have on early brain development? Regardless of what school of thought is presented, it seems that the consumer will be the final decider, particularly when children are at risk.
Dr. David Sortino is a psychologist and current Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents and students. To contact Dr. Sortino, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 707-829-8315, or go to his blog: Santa Rosa Press Democrat – Dr. David Sortino.