Chemicals often associated with plastic water bottles and similar food containers might be getting into our diets in a surprising way. A study conducted by the University of Washington found that the chemicals are getting into our bodies through the food system.
Researchers compared two groups of families. One group was advised through brochures about how to avoid exposure to phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). The other group was fed a catered diet of local, fresh organic food. Later, urinary testing revealed that both groups showed high levels of the chemicals in their systems.
"We expected to find that in the catered diet group we would have much lower exposure concentrations but what we found was actually the opposite," said UW pediatric environmental health specialist Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana.
Findings of the study are published Feb. 27 in the Nature Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiloogy.
"What this study tells us, along with a lot of other literature is that diet is really one of the biggest sources of exposure and contamination can occur much farther upstream [in the food chain] than anything we can control," said Sathyanarayana.
The exact source of the chemicals is not clear.
"If I had to speculate, I would think it has something to do with the plastics that are used when the food is actually created. Phthalates are in high concentrations in flexible plastics like vinyl tubing and I think that it must come into the process somewhere upstream," she said.
Children are particularly susceptible to exposure to the chemicals and that was reflected in the study results.
"All of the individuals had high concentrations when they were eating the diet but children much more than the adults and I think that's because they were taking in a lot more milk and dairy products, which are high in animal fats," said Dr. Sathyanarayana.
Previous studies have linked the pre-natal exposure to phthalates to abnormalities in the male reproductive system to hyperactivity, anxiety and depression in girls.
Sathyanarayana suspects it might take new federal regulations to reduce exposure to these chemicals.