Gender-bender plastics worse in hot water

A study by American scientists has suggested that everyday use of plastic baby bottles could be releasing toxic chemicals which could influence reproductive and brain development.

Previous studies have shown that repeated scrubbing and boiling of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles in laboratory conditions leads to the release of elevated levels of the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol A (BPA) but until now it has been unknown whether this poses a risk in a ‘real life’ situation.

But research from University of Cincinnati scientists suggests that the heat at which bottles are washed, rather than their age or how vigorously they’re scrubbed, is the main factor in the levels of BPA released.

Dr Scott Belcher and his team demonstrated that 55 times more BPA is released when the bottles are exposed to boiling water than if scrubbed in cold water.

“Previous studies have shown that if you repeatedly scrub, dish-wash and boil polycarbonate baby bottles, they release BPA,” said Dr Belcher.

“That tells us that BPA can migrate from various polycarbonate plastics. But we wanted to know if ‘normal’ use caused increased release from something that we all use, and to identify what was the most important factor that impacts release.”

“Inspired by questions from the climbing community, we went directly to tests based on how consumers use these plastic water bottles and showed that the only big difference in exposure levels revolved around liquid temperature: Bottles used for up to nine years released the same amount of BPA as new bottles.”

BPA is one of many man-made chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors, which alter the function of the endocrine system by mimicking the role of the body’s natural hormones.

Hormones are secreted through endocrine glands and serve different functions throughout the body.

The chemical, which is widely used in products such as reusable water bottles, food can linings, water pipes and dental sealants, has been shown to affect reproduction and brain development in animal studies.

There is little clinical evidence to show that the chemical impacts on humans, though most scientists working in this field believe this is due to a lack of study in this area and there are very strong suspicions that it has harmful effects on humans as well as animals.

Sam Bond

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