BPA Lingers in Babies, New Study Finds

February 20, 2009 - News Release

Get rid of Bisphenol A (BPA) in anything consumed by babies. That's the recommendation of a University of Guelph toxicologist and a graduate whose new study found that the chemical lingers in the bodies of newborns and infants.

Compared to adults, newborns and infants may have up to 11 times as much BPA — reported to be linked to cancer and reproductive and behavioural problems — in their bodies, the report said.

"I would advise a pregnant woman to try to reduce or entirely eliminate her exposure to bisphenol A," said Len Ritter, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Environmental Biology and executive director of the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres based at U of G.

Ritter published the study late last year in Environmental Health Perspectives, along with senior author Andrea Edginton, a Guelph graduate and now a professor in the University of Waterloo's school of pharmacy. The American journal is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Bisphenol A is found in many everyday products including baby bottles, liquid formula containers and food cans, and reusable water bottles. The substance may leach from containers and be ingested.

Reports have suggested that exposure to BPA can interfere with the normal working of hormones in people and animals. Earlier studies have linked low BPA exposure to cancer, early onset of female sexual maturity, male fertility problems, impaired learning and behavioural problems such as aggressiveness.

Exposure to current levels of the substance does not appear to pose a health risk for most Canadians, but children and infants are considered to be more vulnerable than adults.

Ritter and Edginton used data from adult human and animal studies to estimate how long BPA stays in a baby's body. Their mathematical model includes information about key enzymes that break down the chemical in the body.

Those enzymes are found in much lower amounts at birth than in grownups. Assuming that BPA exposure is identical between babies and adults, says Ritter, the amount in a baby's blood is about 11 times higher than in an adult.

Confirming their results, another EHP study published last year using human subjects found that BPA levels in children were 10 times higher than in adults. "It was exactly what we had predicted," said Ritter, who is executive director of the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres based at the University of Guelph.

He says governments need to move quickly to reduce or eliminate exposure as much as possible, especially in the very young, and industry needs to find a replacement for BPA. “The target in sensitive population is zero,” Ritter said.

Health Canada is currently writing regulations to ban polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA. Canada is the first country to move to ban the substance in these containers.

Prof. Len Ritter
519 824-4120, Ext. 52980

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt at Ext. 53338, lhunt@uoguelph.ca or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982, bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

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