Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
From "The Graduate," 1967
We've been bombarded for so long with so much info about the evil chemicals we're exposed to every day, that most of us have developed information overload. I've become somewhat fatalistic about it all.
Nevertheless, my ire was raised once again this morning when I read an article by Lynn Peebles in HuffPost about Bisphenol-A (aka BPA) which turns up in tiny amounts in things like plastic water bottles, the linings of tin cans, pesticides and (gasp!) toilet paper. This chemical, to put it simply, mimics estrogen and fools the pancreas into secreting more insulin. The resulting metabolic confusion can result in obesity and diabetes.
The article might be discounted since HuffPost is a publication I consider somewhat sensationalist in its content, but I went to the online scientific journal that published the original information, PLoS ONE, for the straight scoop. I was soon swamped by jargon (I must have slept through my biology and chemistry classes), but the conclusion was pretty clear:
Our findings suggest that BPA behaves as a strong estrogen via nuclear ERβ and indicate that results obtained with BPA in mouse β-cells may be extrapolated to humans. This supports that BPA should be considered as a risk factor for metabolic disorders in humans.All this time we've concentrated so much on diet and exercise, guilt-tripping over every cupcake we consume and every brisk walk we've put off, and apparently there's another health risk lurking in the goods we consume every day. We don't have to even ingest the BPA, just handling cash register receipts exposes us to this vile endocrine-disruptor.
I don't know the figures in the US for diabetes, but here in Mexico it's an epidemic, as is overweight among adults (especially women over 30). I know the Mexican addictions to sugar and fat has plenty to do with it, so I've already eliminated a lot of what I find in the stores from our diet, in favor of raw fruit and steamed or grilled veggies. The Capt and I have both lost weight (he lost more, of course, being male). But even skinny people can get diabetes. So how can we at least reduce BPA exposure?
The PLoS ONE study said the control group of mice that didn't get the BPA exposure got their water in polycarbonate-free plastic bottles, and were kept in new cages so even though the cage material contained polycarbonates, they hadn't started shedding material yet. Therefore, the source of BPA is polycarbonates.
I suppose we could wear surgical gloves when handling cash register receipts (ignoring the cashier's stares), or toilet paper. But then, they're made of plastic, aren't they? Polycarbonates again.
Probably the five-gallon jugs containing the drinking water we buy regularly contain BPA, but conceivably we could buy new jugs periodically, and decant them immediately into some kind of stainless steel or glass container. Then there's the Tupperware I've been using for years...
At the moment I don't even want to think about the toilet paper question. I'm starting to succumb to information overload again, and I feel a headache coming on.