Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist on the public health team of the Natural Resources Defense Council, (and also an MD and a mom) recently wrote this post about the latest troubling study concerning BPA and phthalates in our food. It explains the study and provides some additional information. We asked her a few questions about the findings, her work, and how concerned parents can take action for cleaner, healthier food.
1. Can you explain what happened in this study, and why parents should be concerned?
This study fed participants a diet that was assumed to be low in chemical contaminants because it hadn’t come into contact with plastic during transportation, storage or preparation. All the food was fresh, local and when possible, organic. But surprisingly, the participants had an increase in their exposure to a chemical used as a plastic softening agent. That chemical is a phthalate, called DEHP. DEHP is a known hormone disrupting compound which has been linked to male birth defects, infertility, testicular cancer and other harmful effects.
The concern is that the conventional wisdom about what type of diet you should eat to reduce exposure to phthalates seems to be wrong. Even when doing the “right” thing, these participants had higher levels of exposure because the types of foods they were fed were contaminated with DEHP long before they were purchased for use in this study.
2. What are the implications for this new study on the parenting community?
Unfortunately, what was found in this study isn’t likely to be a unique situation. Most of us, even when we are eating “right” are still ingesting significant amounts of phthalates, including DEHP.
I think the best advice is the same advice. Eat a low fat diet. Eat low on the food chain – more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed food. Eat a variety of foods. That is what you can do in your daily life.