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Are Your Pills Poisoning You with Plastic?

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Plastic is convenient, lightweight, unbreakable and inexpensive. But controversy rages over its potential health risks.

BPA (bisphenol A) has become a target for criticism. It is used in everything from water bottles and football helmets to baby bottles and eyeglasses.

The FDA recently revised its formerly nonchalant attitude to the chemical, a potential hormone mimic. The agency now admits there may be some concern over BPA's effects on brain development in fetuses, babies and young children. Since BPA acts like estrogen, it might also influence breast and prostate development. The agency has called for additional research to be conducted by the National Toxicology Program.

In the meantime, the FDA suggests that consumers take steps to protect themselves and their children by not heating foods or liquids in hard plastic containers in the microwave, and by not putting hot liquids into sippy cups or bottles that contain BPA. The chemical is also found in the lining of metal cans. An article in Consumer Reports (December 2009) revealed that a surprising amount of BPA had leached into some canned goods.

New data from the Environmental Working Group show just how thoroughly BPA has made its way into our tissues. Scientists for the nonprofit advocacy group found BPA in nine of ten samples of umbilical cord blood they tested, suggesting that exposure begins in the womb.

If consumers carefully avoid food from cans and hard, clear containers, they might minimize the amount of BPA they take in. But what about those soft, bendable containers at the take-out counter? Are they a safer alternative?

Unfortunately, they might not be. Many soft plastics contain different types of plasticizers, called phthalates, to keep products flexible. And there are growing concerns about phthalates as well.

Like BPA, phthalate compounds may sometimes act like hormones. Some researchers consider them endocrine disruptors, although the American Chemistry Council disagrees. Parents have been warned not to allow babies to chew on phthalate-containing soft plastic toys and to choose phthalate-free baby powder and lotions.

Another hidden source of phthalates can be pill coatings. Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs may be covered with phthalate-containing plastic. Every time you swallow such a pill your exposure increases dramatically. Researchers have found that phthalate levels can rise as much as 100 fold after a few months of taking such a medication (Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb. 2009).

Both BPA and phthalates can migrate from plastic containers into the food inside. No one knows for sure whether this poses a significant risk for adults, but it seems prudent to minimize the exposure of infants and pregnant women.

Here are some guidelines that will help:

* Never use plastic containers (hard or soft) to heat food in the microwave.

* Look for canned food or beverages that do not have BPA in the lining.

* Do not use BPA-containing baby bottles or pacifiers that contain phthalates.

* Avoid pills that have plastic coatings containing phthalates. Ask your pharmacist to check with the manufacturer.

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18 Comments

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Are the plastic-covered pills tablets, or does this include capsules? I had thought the latter were coated with plain gelatin...

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THE ONES WITH PLASTIC ARE TABLETS. SOME OF THESE COATINGS ARE DESIGNED TO CONTROL ABSORPTION RATE.

http://www.wikipatents.com/5723151.html

Your article about BPA is very helpful. My next question is 'What about the capsules and soft gels that vitamins and many nutritional supplements are packaged into? Do they pose a danger of exposure to phthalates?'

I am wondering about the hard plastic material that is used in night guards and retainers for teeth. Are they made with a plastic ingredient that may be harmful like BPA or Phthalates etc.

What about capsules? I find them easier to take than tablets, so if I have a choice, take my supplements in capsule form. Is that harmful??

Excellent topic -- and I will try to do the positive things offered.

My question is about the Brita products. Since the carbon material is in a plastic-like container, is there any danger of that mixture being dangerous? Also, after you filter the water into the bottle, because the bottle is also plastic, what is the danger of keeping the water in the plastic bottle? I'm going to transfer the water into a glass bottle to store it.

Any replies would be appreciated.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: FOUND ON THE WEB--BRITA FILTERS AND PITCHERS APPARENTLY DO NOT CONTAIN BPA.

Another reader who questions the plastic in my night guard. I wonder how to trace the plastic used in them. I stopped using mine because it made my jaw area uncomfortable although no physical reason for this problem could be found.

I would like to know what we look for in the ingredients list to identify BPA and phthalates in OTC pills such as acetaminophen or other tablets that have hard coating.

What about BPA/thalates transmission via drinking boxed wine that is stored in a plastic bag inside a box? Does the pH of foods or liquids stored in plastic affect the amount of BPA/thalates leached out, i.e., if something is more acidic does it then contain more BPA/thalates?

THANK you Peoples Pharmacy for this great information!!! I checked with my night guard manufacturer website--mine is acrylic. Check with the manufacturer of products. The more we write our concerns --and refuse to buy products with BPA -- perhaps manufacturers will get the message--NO BPAs!!! Do read into the Consumer report from December 2009 BPA--very enlightening! Here:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/december-2009/food/bpa/overview/bisphenol-a-ov.htm

Also some great blog info on this topic out there.

I've actually seen "phthalate" listed on one of my supplements, and I hope they find and use a better substitute as soon as possible. I wonder if there is a way to detox these materials out of you once you consume them? Dr. James Howenstine talks about a supplement called De-Aromatase which is good at balancing and restoring male hormones, so maybe that would help.

Carol Simontacchi ('The Crazy Makers') always said that we are swimming in a sea of estrogen (or estrogenic compounds) so I guess she's right. Also, Katie Couric did an excellent story tonight about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock -- how it has created an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant diseases. And she made a great point -- save your medicines for when you actually need them, or they may just end up making you sicker!

Sounds as though there's enough info for another show especially since we're trying to "cure" ourselves with supplements!

I wish they wouldn't coat pills. I swallow pills easily and don't really need a coating to get them down.

I have, increasingly, been confused to read that certain substances, e.g., BPA and others, "act like hormones," or "have estrogenic effects," and that's how they are harmful to one's health. WHY???!!! As for me, after the "Big M" (don't like to say the word), I actively pursued hormone replacement therapy until I got breast cancer, which I am convinced had NOTHING to do with the estrogen.

It was "stage zero," just some ductal calcifications, easily dealt with. I would still be on HRT, at least the bio-identical HRT, but my doctor won't give me an Rx for it and I finally caved in & stopped pestering her.

I still actively seek out soy and other "natural" sources of estrogen just to keep a little bit more youthful. If BPA (et al) DOES have "estrogenic effects," then surely it couldn't possibly equal the dosage one would acquire by deliberately ingesting HRT, so really, how bad could it be? Or, is there something especially dangerous about THIS form of "estrogenic effect???"

Just wondering.
PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WHEN YOU TAKE HRT, YOU ARE DOING SO DELIBERATELY. WHEN YOU DRINK WATER FROM A PLASTIC BOTTLE OR EAT FOOD FROM A CAN, YOU ARE NOT DELIBERATELY EXPOSING YOURSELF TO A HORMONE, NOR DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE DOSE IS. THE PRIMARY CONCERN IS FOR BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN.

I was very concerned when I read this article. I knew about the plastics in microwaves, but never thought about the plastic coating on the pills I take. I read this in our local paper, The Bryan Times. I have also shared it on my Facebook page. Thank you so much for your article. I appreciate your site also. I'm wondering if this could have anything to do with those children in Clyde, Ohio with all the cancer.

How can you find out what canned foods have the BPA in them? The nutritional labels wouldn't state that.

With all the concern about infants and soft plastics, does anyone know if baby pacifiers are safe?

There is also bpa in dental sealants.

I am taking many vitamins coated with plastic, I take about 8 a day. Is is better to open the vitamin throw out the plastic coating and just added to foods or applesauce? I think this is our safest bet Thanks

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