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Asthma and Exposure to BPA – Is There a Link?

Asthma BPA Link

Many preservatives and additives found in common foods have been linked to asthma attacks in some individuals, but did you know that also chemicals that leach into food from packaging may have asthma-promoting properties? Bisphenol-A, or BPA for short, is one such chemical. This toxin is commonly found in products made of hard plastic, such as water bottles, electric kettles, and containers. A convincing body of evidence suggests that BPA is capable of messing up hormonal systems by mimicking real hormones, and not surprisingly, BPA exposure has been linked to many hormone-dependent conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, obesity and breast cancer. And, new evidence suggests that BPA might also have something to do with the development of asthma in children.

A Groundbreaking Study Finds a Link Between BPA Exposure and Asthma

In 2013, a group of researchers from Columbia University published a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology which linked early childhood exposure to BPA with asthma. This study, which tested 568 children and their mothers in New York City, reported that children with higher levels of BPA at ages 3, 5 and 7 were more likely to develop asthma when they were between 5 and 12 years old. What makes these findings particularly alarming is the fact that already relatively low doses appeared to lead to increased risk of asthma and wheezing.

Interestingly, however, high BPA levels in the mother's urine during pregnancy did not seem to increase the child's risk of asthma and wheeze. In fact, mothers with higher levels of BPA during pregnancy actually appeared to be less likely to have children that developed wheeze. These findings contradict the results of an earlier study, published in the June 2012 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which found that young children, whose mothers had high levels of BPA in their urine during pregnancy, had increased odds of wheeze in early life. Similar effects have also been reported in animal studies.

So, what could explain these differences in outcomes? It is possible that the stage at which the pregnant mothers were tested might have something to do with the seemingly contradictory findings. The 2013 study measured the pregnant women's BPA levels during the third trimester, while the 2012 study measured the mothers' BPA levels earlier in their pregnancy.

Furthermore, measuring BPA levels accurately can be tricky, as this controversial chemical has a very short half life, meaning that it doesn't stay in your body for very long. The difficulty in accurately measuring BPA levels is also one of the key reasons why critics point out that it is still too early to make any definitive conclusions about associations between exposure to BPA and prevalence of asthma. Meanwhile, there are some great strategies for those who want to be on the safe side and reduce their and their children's exposure to BPA (listed below).

Strategies for Avoiding Exposure to BPA

If you're worried about BPA contaminating your food, here are a few strategies you can follow to reduce your exposure to this controversial chemical:

K. Donohue et al (2013). Prenatal and postnatal bisphenol A exposure and asthma development among inner-city children. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 736-742.
A. Spanier et al (2012). Prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and child wheeze from birth to 3 years of age. Environ Health Perspect., 120(6), 916-20.

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