Asthma is on the rise. One reason may be chronic exposure to a particular chemical that is common in our environment. But in the past 40 years, it has found its way into our foods and beverages. And, as you’ll see from a recent study, it’s no coincidence that cases of asthma have increased during this same period of time.
The chemical that’s affecting the rise in asthma cases is bisphenol A (BPA). Manufacturers have long used it to make polycarbonate plastic water and juice bottles. They also use it in the aluminum linings of canned foods and drinks. If you eat a typical American diet high in convenience foods, such as canned soups, canned beans, sodas, and tuna, you’re exposed to large amounts of BPA. Even if you eat a more healthful diet that includes organic fruit and vegetable juices and bottled water in plastic bottles, you’re also exposing yourself to BPA.
In one study, researchers repeatedly exposed mice to large amounts of BPA. They found that their babies were mice more susceptible to allergic asthma.
Another more recent study on mice used the amount of BPA found in our bottled drinking water (smaller amounts than the first study). The researchers presented their findings at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The researchers gave the BPA to the mice and evaluated their babies. They found the BPA increased allergic sensitization and inflammation in the lungs of the baby mice.
So does BPA affect only the young? Hardly! Many scientific studies have found that when a substance affects babies, it usually has a similar effect in the elderly. This is likely the reason we’re seeing such a huge increase in asthma among those over 60. Since there’s no way to completely avoid BPA, what can you do?
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Begin by avoiding all bottled drinking water. Pick up one or two BPA-free plastic or stainless steel water bottles and keep one at home and one in your car. You’ll save money and drink safer water.
Reduce your consumption of all canned foods. Use them just for emergencies.
Past studies have found that acid reacts with the BPA in plastic containers. Avoid all juices sold in plastic bottles unless they’re BPA-free. When in doubt, ask the company that sells them.
Share this information with every pregnant woman you know. Their babies are at an increased risk for getting asthma. And you can help them lower this risk.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand