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Chemicals Linked to Increased Risk of Childhood Obesity

PHOTO: A growing body of science links childhood obesity with certain chemicals that are found in products from food-can linings to nonstick cookware. The chemicals can change the cellular pathways, contributing to fat accumulation. CREDIT: Tony Alter
PHOTO: A growing body of science links childhood obesity with certain chemicals that are found in products from food-can linings to nonstick cookware. The chemicals can change the cellular pathways, contributing to fat accumulation. CREDIT: Tony Alter
July 30, 2013

PHOENIX - It's common knowledge that eating healthy food and exercising can help people maintain a healthy weight, but there's another factor in play of which many people are unaware: chemicals in the products we buy and use.

According to Kathleen Schuler, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, an emerging body of science links an increased risk of obesity to chemicals that disrupt hormones, especially during prenatal life and in childhood.

"One of the effects can be changing the cellular pathways to accumulate fat, and so we're finding that many of the chemicals that we are exposed to every day are what we call 'obesogens' or chemicals that contribute to fat accumulation," she said.

It's now estimated that in Arizona more than one in seven children and nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

Schuler said chemical obesogens can be found in everything from electronics to nonstick cookware and many other consumer products.

Among these is "Bisphenol-A, which people know; it's in food-can linings," she said. "It's in certain kinds of plastics. Phthalates are also hormone-disrupting chemicals that are known to be obesogens, and phthalates are used in plastics. They're also used in fragrance products, so many personal-care products have phthalates in them."

To reduce the risk of exposure, Schuler said, consumers can stop purchasing and using products that contain the chemicals. Even better, she went on, would be to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, which is a federal measure that regulates industrial chemicals.

More information is at bit.ly/13LVqaY.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ