Hidden chemicals in food and containers harmful to health

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently issued a new set of guidelines regarding the health and safety of chemicals present in the food supply. The AAP, in combination with other medical advocates, have begun to express concern with the effects of these chemicals on the body’s natural hormones “that may affect long-term growth and development.”

These chemicals are commonly present in processed meats, canned foods, and plastic food containers. The chemicals of most concern are nitrites and nitrates, which are primarily present in processed meats and are used as preservatives. Phthalates are another chemical that is commonly used to make plastic products for packaging and bisphenols are used to line metal cans for canned food items.

The American Chemistry Council is currently attempting to fight these new guidelines with the argument that these chemicals are safe “in typical uses at typical exposure levels.” However, no concrete evidence is present to back this claim.

Separately, scientists at UCSF have found that many pregnant women have environmental organic acids or E.O.A.s present in the blood. These environmental organic acids contain bisphenol and “have chemical structures similar to hormones, which may disrupt the endocrine system of the fetus and interfere with development.” The Environmental Journal of Health Perspectives have shown this disruption to cause genetic defects, fetal damage, and even cancer.

For children, the exposure to these chemicals are particularly detrimental. The metabolic systems and organs are still developing which can cause long lasting issues. The hormone-like structure of these chemicals can mimic or even block the action of hormones that are responsible for the development of the brain and sex organs. They can also disrupt metabolic processes that may lead to an increased risk of obesity. 

In summary, the AAP suggests:

  • Increasing the consumption of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies
  • Avoiding processed meats, especially during pregnancy
  • Avoiding microwaving foods in plastic containers
  • Using glass or stainless steel containers as an alternative to plastic
  • Checking recycling codes to ensure that containers and products are BPA free.

To learn more about the detrimental effects of food chemicals on fetal development, check out the article by The New York Times Chemicals in Food May Harm Children.

Contributed by: Sofia Sepulveda

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