A chemical commonly used in food packaging and other plastics may cause miscarriages and Down’s syndrome, according to a study published this week in the journal Current Biology. Geneticists at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University found that exposure to even small quantities of bisphenol A (BPA), a substance that mimics the hormone estrogen, can disrupt chromosomal alignment in mouse embryos, killing them or causing birth defects. Some 2 billion pounds of BPA are used by the plastic industry annually to make hard, clear plastics, such as baby bottles, containers for storing and microwaving food, and dental sealants used to prevent cavities. Experts say the BPA could leach from those sources as they age, especially when microwaved or cleaned with strong detergents. Industry reps say BPA is safe for people, but Patricia Hunt, lead scientist in the study, said, “Given the striking effects in mice, I’m not sure we can wait to know if mice and humans are exactly the same.” Microwave any plastic lately? Feeling worried? Share your concerns on The Gristmill, our online discussion forum, only on the Grist Magazine website.
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