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  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.

 Two recent articles about BPA (bisphenol A), BPS (bisphenol B), and the "BPA-free" label  - one a study, and one a review article. The "BPA-free" label unfortunately means the product contains a product similar to BPA (typically BPS) and with the same problems as BPA. Both articles discuss the accumulating health reasons to try to avoid these endocrine disruptors. Which is really , really tough to do given that plastics are all around us and used by us every day.

From Science Daily: Prenatal BPA exposure linked to anxiety and depression in boys

Boys exposed prenatally to a common chemical used in plastics may be morelikely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression at age 10-12. The new study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) within the Mailman School of Public Health examined early life exposure to the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). Results are published in the journal Environmental Research.

BPA is a component of some plastics and is found in food containers, plastic water bottles, dental sealants, and thermal receipt paper. In the body, BPA is a synthetic estrogen, one of the class of chemicals known as "endocrine disruptors." The Columbia researchers, led by Frederica Perera, PhD, DrPH, director of CCCEH, previously reported that prenatal exposure to BPA was associated with emotionally reactive and aggressive behavior, and more symptoms of anxiety and depression in boys at age 7-9.

Perera and her co-investigators followed 241 nonsmoking pregnant women and their children, a subset of CCCEH's longstanding urban birth cohort study in New York City, from pregnancy through childhood....Researchers controlled for factors that have been previously associated with BPA exposure levels, including socioeconomic factors. After separating the data by sex, they found that boys with the highest levels of prenatal exposure to BPA had more symptoms of depression and anxiety than boys with lower levels of prenatal exposure to BPA; no such associations were found in girls.

From Endocrine News: Warning Signs: How Safe Is “BPA Free?”

While stickers are showing up declaring certain products “BPA Free,” that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe. Could bisphenol S be even worse than the compound it is supposed to be replacing? 

Human exposure to BPA is as ubiquitous as the stickers showing up now that proclaim products BPA free. The chemical used to make plastic has been linked to all kinds of reproductive issues, and even thought to play a role in the development of obesity and cardiovascular events, so industry is taking some steps to correct the problem (after much wailing and gnashing of teeth on their part). These stickers read “BPA FREE” and “NON-TOXIC PLASTIC” in bold letters and usually feature leaves and a green motif, the implication being that these products are safe and healthy. 

But “BPA free” does not mean “EDC free” [endocrine disruptor free] and many products now contain bisphenol S as a substitute for BPA. BPS is a similar chemical and has been found in everything from canned soft drinks to receipt paper to baby bottles. (The FDA banned BPA in baby bottles.) It’s been found in indoor dust samples and is beginning to show up in human urine, and it has been reported to be less biodegradable than BPA. Animal studies have implicated BPS in impaired offspring development. And the production of BPS is increasing annually.

“Recent studies testing BPS and comparing it to BPA show that BPS is as bad, if not worse, than BPA as an EDC,” says Andrea Gore, PhD, professor and Vacek Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Texas in Austin, and editor-in-chief of Endocrinology. “’BPA free’ can give consumers a false sense of security about the product.”

According to Kimberly H. Cox, a postdoctoral fellow studying reproductive endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the effects of BPA and BPS are subtler than say, PCBs or pesticides, where exposures came at high levels, with devastating effects. The effects of BPA and BPS depend on the timing, length, and dose of exposure, and numerous studies have shown that there are effects on the reproductive system, for example, at doses of BPA much lower than what has been determined as a “safe” exposure by the EPA. And now there also seem to be effects of BPS on the development of the reproductive system, as well as the brain regions that control reproduction.

“When endocrinologists talk about BPA, they frequently describe it as estrogenic – and do not point out the other endocrine systems that are being altered, such as thyroid hormone,” Wayne says. “Our paper emphasizes that BPA and BPS are activating both estrogenic and thyroid hormone pathways. This suggests that EDCs are having much broader effects on health and disease than just mimicking estrogens (which is bad enough).”

  A report released this week by the Endocrine Society states that the list of health problems that scientists can confidently link to exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals has grown to include: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, reproductive and developmental problems, thyroid impairment, certain reproductive cancers, and neurodevelopmental problems such as decreased IQ. This statement (report) is based on the summaries of 1300 studies on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and it also adds support to the idea that even minute doses of these chemicals can interfere with the activity of natural hormones, which play a major role in regulating physiology and behavior. The statement also stated that most industrial chemicals released into the environment—numbering in the tens of thousands—have never been tested for endocrine-disrupting potential. EDCs include such common chemicals as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, parabens, some pesticides (e.g., atrazine), flame retardants, some persistent organic pollutants, and dioxins.

Where are endocrine disruptors found? People are exposed to chemicals with estrogenic effects in their everyday life, because endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in low doses in thousands of products. Many plastic products, including those advertised as "BPA free", have been found to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals (the substitute chemicals are no better than BPA, and may be worse). Examples: plastic food containers which then leach into foods, linings of metal beverage, formula, and food cans, soft plastic toys, dental sealants, consumer goods, receipts, personal care products that contain parabens or phthalates (e.g., found in lotions,sunscreens, fragrances), household products (such as cleaning products, vinyl shower curtains) , cars (that new car smell in car interiors), etc. Americans love plastics, but there is a serious human health cost. (NOTE: To minimize EDC exposure - try to avoid plastic food and beverage containers. Instead try to use glass, stainless steel, or ceramics. Eat as many unprocessed and fresh foods as possible. Use cloth shower curtains. Read labels and avoid BPA, phthalates, parabens. Avoid fragrances. Don't use or buy non-stick pans, stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets. When buying new furniture, check that it doesn't have added fire retardants.)

Of course any public discussion of the harms from endocrine disrupting chemicals, as well as the newly released Endocrine Society report, is drawing sharp criticisms from the chemical industry (especially the American Chemistry Council, the largest trade group for the chemicals industry). Of course. We all know that the lobbying efforts by the chemical industry to suppress and deny the evidence of harm to humans from EDCs has been and will continue to be massive. Sadly, but at this point EDCs are found in almost everyone on earth. More about the report, from Science Daily:

Chemical exposure linked to rising diabetes, obesity risk

Emerging evidence ties endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure to two of the biggest public health threats facing society -- diabetes and obesity. EDCs contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking or otherwise interfering with the body's natural hormones. By hijacking the body's chemical messengers, EDCs can alter the way cells develop and grow. Known EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA) found in food can linings and cash register receipts, phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics, flame retardants and pesticides. The chemicals are so common that nearly every person on Earth has been exposed to one or more.

"The evidence is more definitive than ever before -- EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea C. Gore, Professor and Vacek Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the task force that developed the statement. "Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in human, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals."

The threat is particularly great when unborn children are exposed to EDCs. Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of EDCs during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life. Similarly, animal studies found that some EDCs directly target beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells. This can lead to insulin resistance and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body -- risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

"It is clear we need to take action to minimize further exposure," Gore said. "With more chemicals being introduced into the marketplace all the time, better safety testing is needed to identify new EDCs and ensure they are kept out of household goods."

In the statement, the Society calls for: Additional research to more directly infer cause-and-effect relationships between EDC exposure and health conditions. Regulation to ensure that chemicals are tested for endocrine activity, including at low doses, prior to being permitted for use. - Calling upon "green chemists" and other industrial partners to create products that test for and eliminate potential EDCs. Education for the public and policymakers on ways to keep EDCs out of food, water and the air, as well as ways to protect unborn children from exposure.

The statement also addresses the need to recognize EDCs as an international problem..... "Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during early development can have long-lasting, even permanent consequences," said Bourguignon. "The science is clear and it's time for policymakers to take this wealth of evidence into account as they develop legislation."