Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute and Breast Cancer Fund in the US found that just three days living on a fresh food diet singificantly reduced levels of the food packaging chemicals bisphenol A (BPA) and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in children and adults.
Lead author Ruthann Rudel, who is a research director at the Silent Spring Institute, told the press that:
"The study provides compelling evidence that removing BPA and DEHP from food packaging would substantially reduce exposures for adults and children."
"The good news is that now we know how much food packaging contributes to our overall exposure to BPA and DEHP, and we know how to significantly reduce exposures, both on a personal and societal level," she added.
BPA and DEHP, high-production-volume chemicals used in plastics and resins for food packaging, have been linked to hormone disruption in animals and also in some human studies, wrote the authors. However, no studies have tried to quantify the impact of diet to exposure in humans, they noted.
For the study, Rudel and colleagues recruited 20 adults and children from five families and tested their evening urine levels of BPA and DEHP for eight days in January 2010 , that is before, during and after a three-day fresh food diet.
They selected the participants based on their self-reported use of canned and packaged foods.
The participant started with their usual diet, then for three days they switched to a "fresh food" diet of organic foods that were not canned or packaged in plastic, and then went back to their usual diet. Also, the families were asked to store their foods at home in glass and stainless steel containers rather than plastic ones.
The results showed that:
- When the participants switched to fresh foods, their average level of BPA fell by over 60%.
- Similarly, average levels of DEHP metabolites fell by over 50% during the fresh food diet.
- The drop was even greater for those individuals whose exposure was highest before the diet switch, over 70% reduction for BPA and over 90% for DEHP.
"The study should serve as a wake-up call to industry and government to enact big-picture solutions that eliminate harmful chemicals from food packaging and protect public health."
Rudel cautioned that:
"As we replace BPA and DEHP, substitute chemicals need to be tested for safety before they're put into use so we don't end up with a revolving door of hazardous chemicals in consumer products."
BPA is used in the manufacture of hard polycarbonate bottles and the epoxy resin lining of food and beverage cans. DEHP is used to soften plastic, including some used as food wrap. Both chemicals are also present in various consumer products such as shower curtains and toys.
The authors noted that consumers can reduce their exposure to both chemicals by avoiding canned food and foods in plastic packaging, eating more home-cooked foods prepared with fresh ingredients, and storing their foods at home in glass and stainless steel containers.
"Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention."
Ruthann A. Rudel, Janet M. Gray, Connie L. Engel, Teresa W. Rawsthorne, Robin E. Dodson, Janet M. Ackerman, Jeanne Rizzo, Janet L. Nudelman, Julia Green Brody.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Published online 30 March 2011.
Additional source: Silent Spring Institute (30 Mar 2011).