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Both males and females should consider trying to lower their exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (hormone disrupting chemicals) when contemplating pregnancy. These chemicals are found in many personal care, food packaging, and plastic products. They can interfere with natural hormone function and are linked to a wide assortment of health problems. Evidence (like this study) is mounting that higher levels of endocrine disruptors in the body have a negative effect on the developing embryo. So men - an important time to try to lower your exposure to endocrine disruptors is the 3 months preconception (it takes about 3 months for sperm to mature), and for women it's the entire pregnancy period (from conception to birth). You can't totally avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals (they're detected in almost all of us), but you can lower your exposure.

What to avoid and what to do? Read the ingredient lists of all personal care products and try to avoid those with phthalates, parabens, triclosan, bisphenol-A (BPA), BPS, triclocarbon, and oxybenzone (BP-3). Try to buy "unscented" or "fragrance-free" products. Canned foods are considered one of the most significant routes of human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), so limit canned foods. Note that "BPA-free" cans and plastic containers also contain endocrine disruptors. Another way to lower exposure to endocrine disruptors is to buy and store food not in plastic containers, but in glass containers or stainless steel. Don't microwave food in any sort of plastic containers. Avoid products with fragrances in them, including air fresheners and dryer sheets. Avoid flexible vinyl (e.g. shower curtains). [For all posts on endocrine disruptors, and an article from National Institutes of Health. Also check ewg.org for lists of products]. From Environmental Health News:

Are plastic chemicals in dads hurting embryos?

Turns out, moms, it's not just about you staying off alcohol and avoiding potentially harmful chemicals while pregnant or trying to become so. Your partners' exposure to plastics and packaging could play an important role in your ability to conceive a child. A father’s exposure to chemicals commonly found in plastics, personal care products and food packaging might decrease the quality of embryos produced by their sperm, according to a new study out of Massachusetts.

The study, published today in the journal Human Reproduction, is the first to examine dads’ exposure to phthalates and embryo quality through five days of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The lower quality embryos had fewer signs of the type of progress that leads to a fetus. The findings suggest men’s exposure to the chemicals—used in vinyl products, food packaging, fragrances and in other plastics to make them pliable—might hamper the development of their unbornEmbryos are the result of a fertilized egg in a woman and are the precursor to the fetus. About 12 weeks into pregnancies, the unborn is considered a fetus.

Most people have phthalates in their bodies and the compounds disrupt the endocrine system—interfering with hormones that are crucial for reproduction.While the study doesn’t prove phthalates in men lead to poor quality embryos, it adds to mounting evidence that the ubiquitous chemicals may impact pregnanciesSperm mature over 72 days on average, almost three months,” said senior author of the study, Richard Pilsner, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “During that time, we may tell men to maybe try to avoid phthalates. There’s no way to totally escape exposure but you could minimize it.

Led by Pilsner, researchers collected 761 immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing IVF at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and checked their progression to embryos. They tested embryos at three days and five days after the eggs were fertilized, and collected urine samples from the couples on the same day as the semen sample and egg retrieval to test for phthalate metabolites, substances formed after the body processes phthalates. At day five, high exposure to phthalates in men was linked to fewer—or no—signs of the type of development that eventually leads to a fetus and placenta compared to men with lower exposure.

Phthalate exposure for fetuses has been linked to genital defects, lower IQs and miscarriages but it’s not clear what impacts this poor embryo quality could mean for the unborn. Russ Hauser, a professor of reproductive physiology at Harvard University, said in an email that the impacts might range from pregnancy loss to effects on children's health later in their life.

Shanna Swan, a professor of reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who was not involved in the study, said the study is limited in that it is small, and not representative of the general population because it only included couples undergoing IVF. They also didn’t see any association with the women’s exposure and decreased embryo quality. But this isn’t the first study to report a male-only effect. Higher phthalates in father’s urine was associated with an increased time for couples to conceive, according to a 2014 study. Swan said the current study was strengthened in that it is “remarkably consistent” with the 2014 study. Some phthalate metabolites linked to impacts in both studies are known to target male reproductive hormones, she said.

  Uh oh....A recent study found that every baby teether tested (and they tested 59 teethers), including all those labeled "BPA free", leached various parabens, bisphenols (including BPA or bisphenol A), and other endocrine disrupting chemicals. Infants chew and suck teethers to soothe the pain from their teeth emerging in the first year of life.

The researchers tested for 26 chemicals in three different types of teethers (solid plastic, gel-filled, and water-filled), and found parabens and bisphenols leaching from all of them. To see what leaches from the teethers, they placed the teethers into water - this is similar to what happens when babies mouth teethers and their saliva is exposed to chemicals in the teethers. The gel filled teethers leached the most chemicals overall. Even though 48 of the 59 teethers were labeled “BPA-free,” the results showed that the labels were misleading, because in this study BPA migrated (leached out) from all the teethers.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can interfere with natural hormone function and are linked to a wide assortment of health problems (see posts on them). Even though the levels of the chemicals found were low, it is important to remember that effects from endocrine disrupting chemicals (hormone disruptors) are from very low levels. So exposing developing infants to these chemicals is of concern. What was disturbing is that these study results were far worse than a small study of teethers in Europe where the standards regarding endocrine disrupting chemicals are stricter than in the US. What should be done? Manufacturers should design products without using problem ingredients right from the start. Problem solved! From Science Daily:

Baby teethers soothe, but many contain low levels of BPA

Bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens and antimicrobials are widely used in personal care products and plastics. The U.S. and other governments have banned or restricted some of these compounds' use in certain products for babies and kids. But the compounds' presence in and leaching from teethers hasn't been thoroughly investigated. Now a study in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology reports that all tested plastic teethers contained BPA and other endocrine-disruptors that leached at low levels.

Studies have shown that in animals, endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) -- which include BPA, parabens and antimicrobials -- can potentially interfere with hormones and have harmful developmental, reproductive and neurological effects. As a result, the European Commission in 2011 restricted the use of BPA in baby bottles. The U.S. followed suit a year later, banning it from baby bottles, and also from children's drinking cups....But very few if any studies have investigated whether the compounds are used to make teethers and if the compounds leach out of these products, which are designed to soothe babies' gums when their teeth come in. Kurunthachalam Kannan and colleagues wanted to see if the products contained EDCs and if the compounds could migrate out.

The researchers analyzed 59 solid, gel-filled or water-filled teethers purchased online in the U.S. for 26 potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Although most of the products were labeled BPA-free or non-toxic, all of them contained BPA. In addition, the researchers detected a range of different parabens and the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban in most of the teethers....Based on estimates of average use time and the body weight of a 12-month-old baby, calculations suggest that exposure to BPA and other regulated EDCs in teethers would be lower than the European standards for temporary tolerable daily intake levels. However, these thresholds are set for individual compounds. Current regulations do not account for the accumulation of multiple EDCs, note the researchers. Additionally, not all chemicals measured in the study are regulated.

 Many of us grew up having silver colored dental fillings (called dental amalgam) in our teeth. Dental amalgam has been used for over 150 years for the treatment of dental cavities (caries) because it is durable, easy to use, and affordable. But it is composed of about 50% elemental mercury (Hg) and so it may release a certain amount of mercury both during the time the cavity is filled and afterward with normal wear. Mercury can cause adverse health effects, such as effects on the central nervous system, kidneys, and immune system. Human mercury exposure also occurs through the consumption of mercury (MeHg) contaminated seafood.

Recently many dentists switched to the use of the composite resins, which are mercury-free alternative materials. However, these can release can release small quantities of bisphenol A (BPA) when applied and as they degrade in the mouth. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, has been found to cause various adverse health effects, including reproductive effects, and can be measured in urine. Which raised the question, do persons with composite resin fillings have elevated BPA in their bodies?

This study examined 14,703 subjects who were divided into three groups based on the number of dental surface restorations (DSR): 0, 1–8, or greater than 8. Dental surface restorations applies to fillings, and not crowns. Note that a tooth's surface can have 5 surfaces (in molars and pre-molars), so 8 filled surfaces can be fewer than 8 teeth with fillings. (It's not the number of fillings, but the surface area they occupy - so the Science Daily article title is misleading.)

They found that the more dental surface restorations a person has, the higher the levels of mercury in the blood. But they found no association between dental surface restorations and urinary BPA. These results are reassuring for those with fillings made of composite resins, but not for people with fillings of dental amalgam. Note: DSR are Dental Surface Restorations, THg is blood total mercury, IHG is inorganic mercury, and MeHg is methyl mercury (typically from seafood). From Science Daily:

Have more than eight dental fillings? It could increase the mercury levels in your blood

Dental surface restorations composed of dental amalgam, a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and other metals, significantly contribute to prolonged mercury levels in the body, according to new research from the University of Georgia's department of environmental health science in the College of Public Health.This research, which analyzed data from nearly 15,000 individuals, is the first to demonstrate a relationship between dental fillings and mercury exposure in a nationally representative population.

The researchers further analyzed exposure by specific types of mercury and found a significant increase in methyl mercury, the most toxic form of mercury, related to dental fillings. Yu said this result suggests the human gut microbiota, a collection of microorganisms living in the intestines, may transform different types of mercury.

Dental amalgam has been the go-to dental filling material for more than 150 years, because it's affordable and durable. However, about half of the compound contains mercury, a heavy metal known to be toxic at high levels, causing brain, heart, kidney, lung and immune system damage. New research suggests that methyl mercury may cause damage even at low levels.

"As toxicologists, we know that mercury is poison, but it all depends on the dose. So, if you have one dental filling, maybe it's OK. But if you have more than eight dental filings, the potential risk for adverse effect is higher," Yu said....The results show that individuals with more than eight fillings had about 150 percent more mercury in their blood than those with none. The average American has three dental fillings, while 25 percent of the population has 11 or more fillings.

The study also looked at dental composite resins, a mercury-free alternative for dental fillings that can release small amounts of bisphenol A, or BPA, which may cause developmental or reproductive damage. The results found no association between dental fillings and urinary BPA, but further research is needed to understand BPA exposure from resin-based materials.

From the original study in :  Associations of blood mercury, inorganic mercury, methyl mercury and bisphenol A with dental surface restorations in the U.S. population, NHANES 2003–2004 and 2010–2012

Elevated mercury in urine usually indicates exposure to an elemental or inorganic source of mercury, while elevated mercury in blood usually indicates exposure to organic mercury or recent exposure to a high level of elemental mercury vapor. However, our current study found that THg, MeHg, and IHg significantly increased with the number of the DSRs after the adjustment of covariates. It is well established that inorganic mercury is released into circulation from amalgam restorations (Lorscheider et al., 1995); it is also widely believed that the only source of the organic form, methyl mercury, is from fish in the diet. However, accumulating evidence demonstrates that human oral or gut commensal bacteria can methylate mercury....Leistevuo et al. found a correlation between the total amalgam surfaces and organic mercury in saliva, suggesting both methylating and nonmethylating bacteria can enhance the formation of toxic methylmercury (Leistevuo et al., 2001).

Conclusions: We have found that dental surface restorations significantly contributed to the blood concentrations of THg and IHg in both periods of study, as well as MeHg in 2011–2012, after adjusting covariates such as age, education, race/ethnicity, gender, smoking, and fish consumption history. However, no association between the dental fillings and urinary BPA was found. This is the first study to demonstrate the relationship between dental fillings and body level of Hg and /or BPA in a nationally representative population. Our findings did not address the potential adverse health effects at low thresholds of mercury exposure; however, a significant correlation between the blood level of mercury and dental restoration raises major concerns about potential mercury exposure. 

 Studies are accumulating evidence that the hormone disrupting effects of compounds BPA (bisphenol A) and BPS (the common substitute for BPA) have numerous negative health effects in humans, including reproductive disorders. But now a second BPA substitute - BPSIP - is also being found in humans, and may be even more persistent than BPA and BPS. This is because they're all chemically similar, and all three are endocrine disruptors. This article points out that they have slightly different effects, and when we are exposed to more than one of them (which we are), then the health effects will be even more worrisome.

Unfortunately these plasticizers are in products all around us, and so detected within almost all of us. They're in food packaging containers (and therefore in food), water bottles, can linings, toys, personal care products, thermal paper products such as cash receipts, etc. Canned foods are considered one of the most significant routes of human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA).

Other endocrine disruptors include phthalates - so read personal care product labels to avoid these. Another way to lower exposure to endocrine disruptors is to buy and store food not in plastic containers, but in glass containers or stainless steel. Don't microwave food in any sort of plastic containers. Avoid products with fragrances in them, including air fresheners. Avoid flexible vinyl (e.g. shower curtains). (For all posts on endocrine disruptors, and an article from National Institutes of Health.) From PLOS Biology:

Wreaking Reproductive Havoc One Chemical at a Time

Bisphenol A (BPA), unlike DES, remained obscure until the 1950s, when chemists tapped it to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. BPA now tops the list of high-volume chemicals, and is found in numerous consumer products, including water bottles, food packaging containers and can linings, and thermal paper products like cash receipts and boarding passes (Fig 1). And because it can leach out of products, it’s been detected in the urine of nearly every person tested. It’s also been found in breast milk, follicular and amniotic fluid, cord blood, placental tissue, fetal livers, and the blood of pregnant women.

Hundreds of studies have associated the BPA levels found in most of us with reproductive disorders, cancers, obesity, and other adverse effects in both animals and humans. Although chemical manufacturers with a stake in the $16 billion BPA market continue to question this evidence, they’ve responded to safety concerns by offering BPA-free alternatives. But as a recent study in PLOS Genetics [1] shows, the new versions seem an awful lot like the original. When one chemical comes under scrutiny, manufacturers often substitute compounds with similar structures to save time and money. But similar structures often cause similar problems. And that’s exactly what the PLOS Genetics authors found.

Thinking BPA’s replacement, bisphenol S (BPS), might target the same pathways, Patrick Allard and his colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles compared the effects of both substances....But, surprisingly, the authors say, the two bisphenols gummed up the works through somewhat different molecular steps. That means simultaneous exposure to BPA and BPS could potentially cause even more reproductive harm. Future studies will need to confirm this possibility, but it’s an unsettling prospect given the ubiquity of BPA and increasing use of BPS, which has already been found in food, shampoo, face cream and other personal care products, soil, and thermal paper products.

And now there’s another “safer” alternative to worry about, researchers reported in Environmental Health Perspectives [2]. Suspecting that cashiers would face higher exposures on the job, the authors screened their urine, blood, and receipts (as well as people who didn’t handle receipts) for BPA, BPS, and another analog called BPSIP. Cashiers’ BPA levels after work were highly variable, likely resulting from its widespread use, but levels of BPS and BPSIP were higher in most cases. Both BPS and BPSIP were also detected in people who weren’t cashiers....The authors were also surprised to see BPSIP in cashiers’ blood more often than the other compounds, suggesting it may be more persistent and our exposure more widespread than previously assumed. BPSIP’s health effects are unknown.

Much more is known about BPA’s estrogenic powers. Earlier this year Pat Hunt, who was among the first to report BPA’s ability to scramble mouse eggs [3], reported similar problems in mouse sperm in PLOS Genetics [4]. Low sperm counts, undescended testicles, malformed penises, and other reproductive anomalies have risen in recent decades, suggesting environmental estrogens may play a role. Hunt’s team investigated this possibility by exposing newborn male mice to BPA or a stronger synthetic estrogen, ethinyl estradiol, just when sperm differentiation begins. BPA exposure disrupts meiosis in males as it does in female mice, the authors discovered, but in different ways....

Health researchers are especially concerned about environmental contaminants that reach the womb during critical windows when even the slightest disturbance can rewire developmental programs to produce profound, irreversible changes that can take years to appear. These changes can cause a plethora of chronic health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, birth defects, and cancer.

 A recent study found that school age children with higher levels of BPA in their bodies were more likely to have an ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)  diagnosis. BPA or Bisphenol A is everywhere (in plastics, linings of cans, etc), found in varying levels in almost everyone, but at least it is eliminated fairly rapidly from the body. So trying to avoid BPA (e.g., buying and storing food in glass containers rather than cans or plastic containers) can quickly lower levels in the body. From Environmental Health News:

Hyperactivity in children linked to plastic additive, BPA

Children in the U.S. with higher levels of BPA in their bodies were more likely to have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a study. The study of 460 children across the U.S. aged 8 to 15 years old found that 11 percent of those with BPA levels higher than the median level had ADHD. In contrast, 3 percent of those children with BPA levels below the median had ADHD. The research, published online last week in the Environment Research journal, adds to evidence that children’s BPA exposure may alter brain development and lead to behavior problems such as reduced attention and hyperactivity. 

The association was stronger for boys than girls, which reflects broader ADHD rates. Nationally about 10 percent of children between 5 and 17 have had an ADHD diagnoses, with boys having a much higher rate at 14 percent. By comparison about 6 percent of girls have the disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.....BPA mimics estrogen hormones.The sexes use hormones differently to influence brain function.

BPA—used to make plastic hard and shatterproof and to extend the shelf life of canned food—can leach out of can linings and into the food. Studies show that just about everyone has traces of the chemical in their body—for instance, 97 percent of the children in this study had BPA in their urine. The additive has been linked to multiple health impacts in exposed babies and children—including obesity, asthma, low birth weights and genital defects.

A 2014 study on prenatal exposure to BPA found higher levels meant more behavior problems for school-age boys. Evans, lead author of that study, said prenatal exposure to chemicals is a “window of high susceptibility,” but so are the childhood years. The brain keeps developing into the 20s. Research specifically looking at ADHD and BPA exposure has been mixed, with some finding a link and some not. Most of the previous studies, however, have been on children younger than 8 years old, and ADHD and its symptoms are often realized later than that.

Animal studies show that BPA may alter the body’s dopamine—a chemical messenger that helps people think and stay alert and focused. “Dopamine systems are modulated by estrogen and BPA is a synthetic estrogen,” Froehlich said. There are also suggestions that BPA can interact with thyroid hormones—“critical in normal brain development,” Evans said.

We're surrounded by hormone disrupting chemicals (endocrine disruptors) in daily life - in plastics, personal care products, pesticides, food containers, plastic toys, etc. A recent study done in the European Union (EU) reports on a growing body of evidence suggesting that exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), particularly phthalates and diphenyldichloroethene (DDE), contribute to the development of common reproductive disorders in women: endometriosis and uterine fibroids. A group of global EDC experts estimated the economic costs of these female reproductive disorders attributable to endocrine disrupting chemical exposures at nearly €1.5 billion ($158 billion) annually.

EDCs (like DDT and phthalates) are believed to contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking, or otherwise interfering with the function of hormones by disrupting the signaling system the body uses to determine how cells develop and grow.  A number of studies suggest a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, a chemical known as DDE, can raise the risk of developing uterine fibroids, and that another group of chemicals called phthalates, which are found in plastic products and cosmetics, have been linked to a growing risk of endometriosis. Keep in mind that several other chemicals, such as PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, and BPA have also been linked with female reproductive health problems. From Science Daily:

Chemical exposure linked to 1.4 billion euros in women's health care costs, study suggests

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may contribute to reproductive health problems experienced by hundreds of thousands of women, costing European Union an estimated 1.4 billion Euros ($1.5 billion) a year in health care expenditures and lost earning potential, according to a new study. The study examined rates of uterine fibroids -- benign tumors on the uterus that can contribute to infertility and other health problems -- and an often painful condition called endometriosis where the tissue that normally lines the uterus develops elsewhere in the body. The two conditions are common, with as many as 70 percent of women affected by at least one of the disorders.

Research has linked the development of uterine fibroids and endometriosis to chemicals found in pesticides, cosmetics, toys and food containers. Past studies suggest a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, a chemical known as DDE, can raise the risk of developing uterine fibroids. Another group of chemicals called phthalates, which are found in plastic products and cosmetics, have been tied to growing risk of endometriosis.....DDT and phthalates are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

"Although these two gynecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognize that this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg," Trasande said. "A growing body of evidence suggests EDC exposure is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility and pregnancy complications. These disorders also place a significant cost burden on women, their families and society as a whole.

A news story added some extra details and background to this story. From CNN:

Common chemicals linked to endometriosis, fibroids -- and healthcare costs

Hormone-disrupting chemicals are everywhere -- in plastics, pesticides and makeup -- and two of them, phthalates and DDE, have been particularly strongly linked with common female reproductive conditions, such as fibroids. In a new study, researchers estimate that the problems caused by these two chemicals alone could cost the European Union at least 1.41 billion euros a year, the U.S. equivalent of about $1.58 billion.

DDE is a breakdown product of the insecticide DDT that, although banned in the United States in 1972 and in Europe starting in the 1970s, still lingers in the environment and enters our body through food. The main exposure to phthalates is through eating food and drink stored in plastic containers that have phthalates.....In a similar way, they relied on a study that linked higher phthalate levels in women who had been diagnosed with endometriosis compared to healthy women.

The current study is important because it focused on chemicals that have not been restricted, and in the case of DDE -- which persists in the environment -- are not able to be restricted, Birnbaum said. However, she said she was surprised the researchers did not include an analysis of chemicals such as BPA, which has also been linked to endometriosis risk."This study is kind of a wake-up to say endocrine disruptors impact the female reproductive system, and we have some evidence they are associated with an increase in endometriosis and fibroids and it costs a lot of money," Birnbaum said.

Even with all the questions that remain, and few regulations in place, "there are safe and simple steps that families and women can take to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals," Trasande said. "They can eat organic, reduce canned food consumption, which reduces exposure to BPA, and avoid packaged or highly processed food, which is a major route for phthalates to enter food. They can also open windows to allow chemical dust, which accumulates on the carpet and electronics, to circulate out of homes."

 There is increasing concern over phthalates and BPA and their effects on human health. It turns out that a big source of phthalates (which are known endocrine disruptors) in humans may be fast food. A new study looked at fast food consumption by  8877 people and found that those who reported eating more of it in the past 24 hours had urinary phthalate levels as much as 40 percent higher than those who had eaten no fast food in the 24 hours before testing. In fact, it was a dose-response relationship between fast food intake and exposure to phthalates - the more fast food, the higher the level of phthalates.

The researchers did not find an association between total fast food consumption and BPA. However, they did find an  association between fast food meat intake and BPA,  which corresponds to the small but growing evidence from other studies suggesting that hamburgers may be a source of BPA exposure.

These findings are of concern to all of us because phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) are widely used industrial chemicals that may adversely impact human health. Studies detect phthalates in 98% of the US population. They are found in a wide variety of products (including plastics and personal care products), and can enter the human body via ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin. How are we exposed to them in fast food? Phthalates and BPA are typically found in food packaging and some leaches out into food. Some can also leach into food from dairy product tubing, in lid gaskets, food preparation gloves, conveyor belts, etc. Thus we ingest phthalates and BPA when we consume processed or packaged food. Fast food may be an especially important source of exposure to phthalates and BPA because it is highly processed, packaged, and handled.

Studies have demonstrated that the phthalates DEHP and DiNP are endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and that human exposure has been associated with adverse reproductive, neurobehavioral, and respiratory health effects. BPA is also an endocrine disruptor. We are all being exposed numerous ways, but the lower the levels, the better. The good news is that once in the body, phthalates and BPA are quickly metabolized and excreted in urine, with elimination half-lives of less than 24 hours. Thus you can quickly reduce the levels in your body. And you should try. From Science Daily:

Fast food may expose consumers to harmful chemicals called phthalates

People who reported consuming more fast food in a national survey were exposed to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, according to a study published by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

"People who ate the most fast food had phthalate levels that were as much as 40 percent higher," says lead author Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH. "Our findings raise concerns because phthalates have been linked to a number of serious health problems in children and adults."Phthalates belong to a class of industrial chemicals used to make food packaging materials, tubing for dairy products, and other items used in the production of fast food. Other research suggests these chemicals can leach out of plastic food packaging and can contaminate highly processed food.

Zota and her colleagues looked at data on 8,877 participants who had answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food. These participants also had provided researchers with a urinary sample that could be tested for the breakdown products of two specific phthalates--DEHP and DiNP.

Zota and her colleagues found that the more fast food participants in the study ate the higher the exposure to phthalates. People in the study with the highest consumption of fast food had 23.8 percent higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample. And those same fast food lovers had nearly 40 percent higher levels of DiNP metabolites in their urine compared to people who reported no fast food in the 24 hours prior to the testing. The researchers also discovered that grain and meat items were the most significant contributors to phthalate exposure. Zota says the grain category contained a wide variety of items including bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles.

In addition, the researchers also looked for exposure to another chemical found in plastic food packaging--Bisphenol A or BPA. Researchers also believe exposure to BPA can lead to health and behavior problems, especially for young children. This study found no association between total fast food intake and BPA. However, Zota and her colleagues found that people who ate fast food meat products had higher levels of BPA than people who reported no fast food consumption.

 Some more bad news about BPA and other endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors) such as the phthalate DEHP. Bottom line: Avoid plastics, BPA, BPS and other BPA substitutes (they're chemically similar and seem to have similar health effects) as much as possible. Most canned food has BPA or BPA substitutes in the can linings. Use glass and stainless steel to store food, microwave food in dishes (not in plastic containers or packages). Go to the Environmental Working Group site for more information on product information, what to avoid, and what to look for and get instead.

From Science daily: BPA substitute can trigger fat cell formation: Chemical used in BPA-free products exhibits similar endocrine-disrupting effects

Exposure to a substitute chemical often used to replace bisphenol A in plastics can encourage the formation of fat cells, according to a new study. The replacement chemical, bisphenol S, has a slightly different chemical structure than bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor. As of 2014, nearly 100 epidemiological studies have been published tying BPA to health problems, according to the Introductory Guide to Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals published by the Society and IPEN, a global network that supports sound chemicals management.

Concerns about BPA's health effects have encouraged some consumers to purchase food containers labeled "BPA-free." BPA-free products often contain bisphenol S (BPS)or other substitutes, but researchers have raised concerns that these replacements also interfere with the body's hormones and may pose similar threats to public health."Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism," said the study's senior author, Ella Atlas, PhD, of Health Canada, the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. 

A report (a collaborative effort of 5 organizations) that looked for the presence of BPA and BPA substitutes in the linings of food cans from major food companies. And yes, they found BPA in most cans (67%). From the group Toxic Food Cans: Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food

This study set out to analyze the interior coatings and lids of nearly 200 canned foods collected in 19 states and one Canadian province to determine whether the use of bisphenol A (BPA) continues to be widespread among major national brands and retailers of canned foods. We also wanted to determine what replacement materials for BPA-based epoxy are being used by retailers and manufacturers and the extent to which those companies have studied the safety of those materials.

Our findings were alarming: This report validates our concerns that, despite consumer demand for BPA-free cans, 67 percent (129 of 192) of the cans we tested contained BPA-based epoxy in the body and/or the lid. Our investigation also found, for the first time, that some retailers and brands have replaced BPA with PVC, made from vinyl chloride, a carcinogen.

BPA is a hormonally active chemical. The scientific evidence linking BPA exposure to harm in humans is compelling and growing: More than 300 animal and human studies have linked exquisitely small amounts of BPA exposure, measured in parts per billion and even parts per trillion, to a staggering number of health problems, including breast and prostate cancer, asthma, obesity, behavioral changes (including attention deficit disorder), altered development of the brain and immune system, low birth weight and lowered sperm counts.

This study looked at plasticizers called phthalates (which are commonly found in medical tubes), and which also have endocrine disrupting effects. From Medical Xpress:  Attention deficit after kids' critical illness linked to plasticizers in medical tubes

Children who are often hospitalized in intensive care units are more likely to have attention deficit disorders later, and new research finds a possible culprit: a high level of plastic-softening chemicals called phthalates circulating in the blood. The researchers.....suggest these chemicals, which are added to indwelling medical devices such as plastic tubes and catheters, seep into the child's bloodstream.

"Phthalates have been banned from children's toys because of their potential toxic and hormone-disrupting effects, but they are still used to soften medical devices," said lead researcher Sören Verstraete, MD, a PhD student at KU (Katholieke Universiteit) Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. "We found a clear match between previously hospitalized children's long-term neurocognitive test results and their individual exposure to the phthalate DEHP during intensive care."

Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, or DEHP, is the most commonly used plastic softener in medical devices made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Verstraete called the use of medical devices containing this phthalate "potentially harmful" for the brain development and function of critically ill children.

  Once again, research shows that "BPA-free" plastic does not mean it is safer than BPA plastic. Both BPA and BPS (the usual replacement for BPA) leach estrogenic chemicals into the foods and beverages, which means negative health effects when ingested. Both BPA and BPS mimic the effects of estrogen, as well as the actions of thyroid hormone. Yes, this study was done on zebrafish, but think of them as "the canaries in the mine" - if it affects them, it could affect humans also, especially developing fetuses and young children.

BPA  and BPS can leach into food, particularly under heat, from the lining of cans and from consumer products such as water bottles, baby bottles, food-storage containers, sippy cups, and plastic tableware. BPA can also be found in contact lenses, eyeglass lenses, compact discs, water-supply pipes, some cash register and ATM receipts, as well as in some dental sealants. A good way to minimize exposure to BPA , BPS, and other estrogenic chemicals is to try to avoid food and beverages in plastic containers and cans, but instead try to buy and store food in glass containers, jars, and bottles. From Science Daily:

'BPA-free' plastic accelerates embryonic development, disrupts reproductive system

Companies advertise "BPA-free" as a safer version of plastic products ranging from water bottles to sippy cups to toys. Many manufacturers stopped used Bisphenol A to strengthen plastic after animal studies linked it to early puberty and a rise in breast and prostate cancers.Yet new UCLA research demonstrates that BPS (Bisphenol S), a common replacement for BPA, speeds up embryonic development and disrupts the reproductive system.

Using a zebrafish model, Wayne and her colleagues found that exposure to low levels of BPA and BPS -- equivalent to the traces found in polluted river waters -- altered the animals' physiology at the embryonic stage in as quickly as 25 hours. "Egg hatching time accelerated, leading to the fish equivalent of premature birth," said Wayne, who is also UCLA's associate vice chancellor for research. "The embryos developed much faster than normal in the presence of BPA or BPS."

The UCLA team, which included first author Wenhui Qiu, a visiting graduate student from Shanghai University, chose to conduct the study in zebrafish because their transparent embryos make it possible to "watch" cell growth as it occurs.... In a second finding, the team discovered that the number of endocrine neurons increased up to 40 percent, suggesting that BPA overstimulates the reproductive system.... "We saw many of these same effects with BPS found in BPA-free products. BPS is not harmless."

After uncovering her first finding about BPA in 2008, Wayne immediately discarded all of the plastic food containers in her home and replaced them with glass. She and her family purchase food and drinks packaged in glass whenever possible. "Our findings are frightening and important," emphasized Wayne. "Consider it the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine."

Finally, the researchers were surprised to find that both BPA and BPS acted partly through an estrogen system and partly through a thyroid hormone system to exert their effects"Most people think of BPA as mimicking the effects of estrogen. But our work shows that it also mimics the actions of thyroid hormone," said Wayne. "Because of thyroid hormone's important influence on brain development during gestation, our work holds important implications for general embryonic and fetal development, including in humans."

Researchers have proposed that endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be contributing to the U.S.' rise in premature human births and early onset of puberty over the past couple of decades. "Our data support that hypothesis," said Wayne. "If BPA is impacting a wide variety of animal species, then it's likely to be affecting human health. Our study is the latest to help show this with BPA and now with BPS."

  More and more studies are finding negative health effects from hormone disrupting chemicals (which we are exposed to every single day, and subsequently which are in all of us), such as parabens, phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and chemical substitutes for BPA such as Bisphenol-S (BPS) and BPF.  The last post had some recent studies that looked at health effects of hormone disrupting chemicals. The following article points out some of the many difficulties in developing packaging that is safe and doesn't leach endocrine disrupting chemicals or even other chemicals.

We generally focus on hormone disrupting chemicals in plastic bottles or metal cans (which their epoxy liners), but other parts of packaging may (or may not) also leach chemicals. Some leaching may occur with the adhesives used to seal foil pouches, and the polypropylene inner layers also may leach stabilizers. Glass jars are OK, but jar lids may be equipped with BPA-based epoxy liners and/or gaskets that leach plasticizers. Greaseproof wrappers may leach poly- and perfluorinated compounds used to make some packaging greaseproof (may occur if packaging is from India and China - because it is legal to import into USA and use).  Some ceramic kitchenware - the glazes used in artisanal pottery and older mass produced ceramics may leach toxic metals, especially lead. There can even be "offset migration" which occurs when the printed outer surface of food packaging transfers chemicals to the inner food-contact surface.  Whew...

Bottom line: Even BPA alternatives (labeled BPA-free) should be viewed as the same as BPA (as endocrine disruptors) - in other words, currently there are no good BPA substitutes. Read labels and try to minimize plastics in personal care products (e.g., lotion, fragrances) and your food if possible (e.g., choose glass, stainless steel, wax paper, aluminum foil). This is especially important during pregnancy.  Don't microwave food in a plastic dish or container, or covered with plastic wrap. Eat fresh foods and try to avoid soda cans and other packaged, processed foods, especially in plastic containers or metal cans. From Environmental Health Perspectives: A Hard Nut to Crack: Reducing Chemical Migration in Food-Contact Materials

When we buy food, we’re often buying packaging, too. From cherries to Cheez-It® crackers, modern foods are processed, transported, stored, and sold in specialized materials that account, on average, for half the cost of the item, according to Joseph Hotchkiss, a professor in Michigan State University’s School of Packaging. Consumer-level food packaging serves a wide range of functions, such as providing product information, preventing spoilage, and protecting food during the journey from production to retail to pantry, fridge, or freezer. That’s why food producers lavish so much time and money on it.

But what happens when these valuable and painstakingly engineered containers leach chemicals and other compounds into the food and drink they’re designed to protect? Such contamination is nearly ubiquitous; it happens every day, everywhere packaged food is found, with all common types of packaging, including glass, metal, paper, and plastic. Even as awareness of the issue grows, large-scale solutions that are scientifically and financially viable remain out of reach. The challenges in reaching them are many.

People around the world are familiar with bisphenol A (BPA) and concerns about its migration into food and drink from plastic bottles, metal cans, and other consumer products. ....In recent years U.S. manufacturers voluntarily abandoned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant-formula packaging, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally ended its authorizations of these uses thereafter. Beyond our borders, several other countries have banned BPA from some infant products, including Canada, the European Union, South Africa, China, Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador. France went even further with its recently implemented ban of BPA from all packaging, containers, and utensils that come into contact with food.

BPA is just one of many known or suspected endocrine disruptors commonly found in food packaging that can migrate into food and drink. Furthermore, endocrine disruptors from plastics are far from the only class of potentially harmful chemicals that can leach into food or drink from food packaging; depending on factors including temperature, storage time, and physicochemical properties, a wide variety of compounds—including components of coatings and films, adhesives and glues, and inks and pigments—can migrate from packaging materials.

Sure enough, in some applications BPA was replaced with other bisphenols, including BPS and BPF, which laboratory experiments indicate have estrogenic effects at least as pronounced as those of BPA. In others, including baby bottles, polycarbonates were replaced by alternative plastics with migration issues of their own. Chemists are now on the hunt for effective alternatives to BPA. To date no one has identified any drop-in fixes that will work in all the same applications, for the same or a lesser cost, with an established lack of estrogenic activity (now known in the marketplace as “EA-free”).

But full-scale solutions remain at least a few iterations away, says John Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. “Something like reinventing plastic isn’t going to happen in a day, a month, or a year,” he says.... Much of Warner’s personal research centers on developing biobased plastics (i.e., derived from renewable biomass sources) that are safer, cheaper, and as effective as traditional fossil-fuel plastics for food packaging. However, plant-based plastics still may contain some of the same harmful additives and manufacturing by-products (known as non-intentionally added substances) that can migrate into food and drink.

While it’s clear that a number of packaging manufacturers are eager to switch to alternative packaging whether required to or not, progress to date has been incremental at best

Some nongovernmental organizations are taking steps to get specific chemicals removed from food packaging. Within the last year the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has teamed with citizens’ groups in petitioning the FDA to withdraw its decades old approvals of a handful of chemicals, including perchlorate, an endocrine disruptor used to produce rubber gaskets and to reduce static charge in plastic dry-food packaging, and long-chain perfluorocarboxylates, used to greaseproof paper and paperboard. The latter have been largely abandoned by U.S. manufacturers but increasingly are employed in India and China and are still legal to import and use, says Tom Neltner, an independent consultant.

Maricel Maffini, a consultant and former senior scientist with the NRDC, is concerned that the development of safer alternatives is being hampered by a lack of regulatory incentives and oversight. “There is no regulatory pressure for innovation,” she says. “And when [manufacturers] do take the initiative to go for an alternative, we don’t know the safety profile of that alternative, we don’t know the exposure, we don’t know if it gets metabolized when it gets into the environment. So there are still a lot of systemic improvements that we need.”