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Caution Urged in Wake of JAMA Study Linking BPA and Obesity

IMAGE: Graphic of plastic and aluminum containers. Courtesy of
September 20. 2012
IMAGE: Graphic of plastic and aluminum containers. Courtesy of

PHOENIX - A new study cites a link between obesity and a chemical found in food packaging such as plastics and aluminum cans.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) has been banned from use in baby bottles and toddlers' "sippy cups," because scientists say it interferes with hormones. Researchers in the new study found higher BPA levels in obese teens and children than in those who were not obese.

That finding does not mean that the chemical causes obesity, says Dr. Jennifer Lowry, a toxicologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. It just shows a link, she says, but adds that parents should try to limit children's exposure to chemicals. She admits that's not easy.

"There are 80,000 chemicals that are regulated by EPA, and yet we only know maybe about 2,000 of them in any large degree, on the health effects that occur from them."

While some aluminum cans contain BPA, Lowry says canned vegetables should not be removed from a child's diet, especially if they are the only vegetables a family can afford. Until more studies are done, she thinks the risk of eating an unhealthy diet is worse than the risk of eating vegetables from a can.

It's pretty much impossible to get away from using plastic altogether, Lowry says. However, she says she never microwaves her food in plastic because, when damaged, the chemicals it contains can get into the food.

"So, even if I have macaroni and cheese stored in my butter container in my refrigerator, when I go to heat it up, I put it into a glass container."

Lowry says it's always a good idea to read labels and try to eat foods with the least amount of chemicals.

"If you don't understand what the first five ingredients are on the ingredients list, it's probably not something you want to put into your body."

While BPA is no longer used in baby bottles, the study raises questions about its use in products used by older children.

The study, which appears in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is online at

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ