07 October 2009

Chemically changing the species: Making violent girls with BPA

According to Health Canada, manufacturers and importers apply to introduce approximately 1,000 new chemicals and polymers into the marketplace every year. We live in a sea of man-made chemicals. What, many of us sensibly wonder, are they doing to us. Are they changing us in harmful or dangerous ways we are not aware of? Are they changing us into something we don't want to become?

That question was answered recently while answering yet another question about modern society, and the answer was yes. Many commentators have remarked on the apparent increase in violent behaviour among girls. Are the females among us becoming as inclined to violence as the males? And if so, why? Apparently part of the answer at least is bisphenol A (BPA).

A recent study measured BPA levels in the urine of 249 pregnant women at 16 and 26 weeks into pregnancy and at birth. Two years later, investigators assessed the children's behaviour and found an association between the degree of exposure and aggressive and acting out-type behaviour in the daughters. Boys did not appear to be affected.

BPA is commonly used in the manufacture of such products as plastic bottles, canned food linings, water supply pipes and medical tubing. Over 90 per cent of Americans have detectible levels of BPA in their urine. In Canada, BPA is banned from products that infants are exposed to but that, it appears, may not be nearly good enough.

More work will be necessary to firmly establish cause and effect, but the indications are frightening. And insidious. The harm occurs not in the people who ingested the chemical but in their children. And of course we must wonder what else the substance is doing to girls' nervous systems.

The importance of the question "What are chemicals doing to us?" is ratcheted up another notch.

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