Early Puberty and the Environment

Have you noticed girls are “blooming” earlier and earlier?  According to a new study, almost one in four black girls and one in 10 white girls in the U.S. had developed breasts by the age of seven.  SEVEN.  My daughter will be in first grade when she’s seven.  First graders should not have breasts already!

By age 8, the numbers are worse, almost 1 in 2 black girls and 1 in 5 white girls.   These numbers are getting worse.  In 1997, the proportion of white girls that had developed breasts by age seven was 5% – so in just 13 years, the number has doubled.

Early puberty is linked to early sexual experiences, low self-esteem, higher risk of eating problems,  depression, suicide, and a greater risk of breast cancer.

So what is causing this alarming trend?

There are several possible causes: the environment and childhood obesity.

One of the top environmental concerns are endocrine disruptors – chemicals that act on hormones to change bodily functions.  Bisphenol-A (BPA) sound familiar?  If not, you can read more about this chemical in plastics here, here and here.  If you drink soda – you’re ingesting a little BPA.  If you have old baby bottles (older than 2008 or so) – you’re feeding your child a little BPA.

The other endocrine disruptor commonly found in plastics are phthalates.  Phthalates are everywhere. Personal care products like perfume and nail polish,  vinyl floors, vinyl upholstery, toys, paints, packaging, detergents and even medication.   Just researching this post, I found that the medication I take to control my Crohn’s Disease is covered in a coating containing phthalates and since I’m taking large quantities per day, let’s just say my internal alarms are flying off the hook.

One other interesting finding in the study was that the prevalence of early puberty was different amongst regions.  Girls in San Francisco were found to have a lower rate (11.6%) than girls in New York (15.3%) and girls in Cincinnati (18.9%).  This could be due to San Francisco’s reputation as an area for healthy eating, exercise, low plastics and chemical use.

Let’s keep our little girls, just that. Little girls.  Not concerned about bras, sexual experiences or obsessed with their image.    Free to have tea parties with their friends, ride bikes through the neighborhood and run unabashedly through the sprinkler.


Alternatives to BPA in Canned Foods

It’s not new news that the tin cans used for canned food is lined with a resin containing bisphenol-A (BPA).  The only new news is that every week there seems to be new research warning of BPA’s dangerous effects.  Unfortunately, avoiding canned food altogether is just not feasible for every family.  There are ways, however, to minimize your use of canned foods and the effect that BPA may have on you and your family.

1.  Buy tomato based products in glass or TetraPaks. Acidity causes BPA leaching and tomatoes have a lot of it.  You can get glass tomato paste and strained tomatoes from Bionaturae and crushed and diced tomatoes from San Marzano.  Trader Joe’s carries an Italian Tomato Starter Sauce in a TetraPak and Pomi has both chopped and strained tomatoes, along with a marinara sauce in TetraPaks.

2. Buy Eden Foods canned goods. According to their website, “All 33 Eden Organic Beans including Chili, Rice & Beans, Refried, and Flavored, are cooked in steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous c-enamel that does not contain the endocrine disrupter chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA). Oleoresin is a non-toxic mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from various plants, such as pine or balsam fir. Theshttp://mommygoesgreen.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1985&action=edite cans cost 14% more than the industry standard cans that do contain BPA. The Ball Corporation tells us that Eden is the only U.S. food maker to date to use these BPA free cans and we have been since April 1999.”   Buy online.

3. Buy dried goods and cook them. Searching through my pantry, I find that many of my canned food purchases are beans – kidney, white, garbanzo or black.  I can buy dried beans and cook them for my meals, it takes about an hour in a saucepan or just minutes with a pressure cooker.

4. Grow or pick your own.  Spring is around the corner so start thinking about planting a fruit and/or veggie garden.  I promise it’s not a lot of work – start small with a few easy to grow veggies this summer and keep adding year after year.  It feels good to walk outside each day and pick the fruit of your labor (literally).  What you don’t eat can be canned (in glass) for the winter.  If you don’t want to grow your own, go to a farm and pick them.  Last summer, we picked over 30 pounds of blueberries that lasted all winter and enough strawberries to make freezer jam for a year.

5. Buy soups and broths in TetraPaks. You can find a great variety of soups and broths in TetraPaks from brands like Pacific Foods, Imagine Foods, and Trader Joe’s.

6. Buy frozen. Frozen may not be quite as good as fresh, but it’s a better choice than canned. Frozen, organic fruits and veggies are not that more expensive than conventional choices and they are much healthier and contain less pesticides.

What other kinds of canned foods do you buy and can you find an alternative?


Glass Baby Bottles

file_1_15Three plus years ago, when my daughter was born, bisphenol-A (BPA) didn’t have quite the notoriety it does now.  I used plastic bottles then and you can bet they had BPA in them.  Flash forward several years and BPA has been removed from most plastic bottles.   In addition, many of the bottle manufacturers have come out with glass bottles.

il_430xN_111533497In the last year, we switched from using plastic to using glass in as many areas as we can and bottles was one of them.  I was a little wary of using glass for the baby bottles, but for the last 8 weeks, we’ve used them with great success.  One of the best things about using glass is that I feel safe warming the milk or water in the bottle directly as I don’t put any plastic in the microwave. 

You don’t have to worry about breakage – I dropped a bottle on my hard wood floors and it practically bounced.  No breaking, no cracks.  Once our son can hold the bottle himself, I will use a “bottle cozy”, a cover for the bottle that will be just one more layer of protection against breakage.   I have a silicon bottle “cozy” but you can find other bottle covers like this pink damask cloth cover from CoozyCo’s etsy shop or if you’re crafty, you can crochet bottle covers.


Bisphenol A ( BPA ) – An Update

NOTE: This posting is part of Green Mom’s Carnival, published this month at Fake Plastic Fish.

2008 was the year of Bisphenol A ( BPA ) – you couldn’t go one week without reading another article about BPA in baby bottles.  BPA is a chemical linked to developmental, neurological and reproductive defects and is a particular concern in fetuses, infants and children.  It’s known to leach under certain conditions, especially high temperatures. This year, the news has slowed down but the momentum to remove the chemical has not. 

Late last year, major retailers including Babies ‘R Us, Target and CVS banned baby bottles with BPA from their stores.  In March, 6 bottle manufacturers voluntarily banned BPA from their bottles including Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow.

Unfortunately, baby bottles are not the only way that BPA is entering our bodies.  Other products that contain BPA include linings of cans such as baby formula, soda and canned foods.  Dental sealants and fillings are also receiving media attention. Last month, a group of scientists met in Germany to reassess BPA.  The Milwaukie Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reviewed preliminary drafts of consensus statements derived from that meeting and two statements I found concerning included:

  • Newborns have between three and 11 times more BPA in their system than adults.
  • Although scientists know that people are exposed to BPA by ingesting it through food and drink, they also know that they must be exposed to the chemical by other means as well. The levels detected in people are too high to be the result of ingestion only.

Canada banned BPA in baby bottles last year but the U.S. and European Union declared the chemical safe.  However, since then, counties and states in the U.S. have enacted laws banning BPA.   The first law, declared by Suffolk County, New York, banned bisphenol A in baby bottles and other empty storage containers used by children aged 3 years and younger.  The city of Chicago is considering a similar ban.  Other states considering a bill in 2009:

  • State of Illinois – HB2485
  • State of Oregon – HB2367
  • State of California – SB797
  • State of Hawaii – HB796
  • State of Maryland – HB15
  • State of Massachusetts – HB259
  • State of Michigan – HB4522
  • State of Minnesota – HF326
  • State of Washington – HB1180

We can expect to see more activity this year on the ban of bisphenol A in products not only for children but for adults as well.  A bill has also been introduced to the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives banning BPA from all food and beverage containers, however I don’t think we can expect this to move forward much until fall or winter. 

To avoid products with bisphenol A:

  • check your bottles and sippy cups to make sure they are BPA free – this may involve contacting the manufacturer
  • don’t use liquid formula – powdered formula is also in a BPA lined can but the risk is significantly lower than liquid formula
  • don’t microwave plastic food containers – this is a rule I use generally, but specifically do not microwave those with a #7 label on the bottom
  • limit canned foods and opt for those packaged in cardboard cartons instead of cans  – a lot of soups come in this fashion
  • replace sports bottles with stainless steel bottles – in the last year, several manufacturers have replaced their sports bottles with a BPA free version
  • talk with your dentist before your children get sealants – consider the necessity and ask your dentist to help you find BPA free sealants
  • support the campaign to pass the ‘Kid-Safe Chemicals Act – an overhaul of our nation’s chemical law