The American Academy of Pediatrics is cautioning parents and pediatricians to avoid exposing children to eight chemicals found in food and in plastic packaging. The chemicals may be especially harmful to kids due to their small size, says the report published July 23 in Pediatrics. Pregnant women should also avoid the chemicals. And lower-income families who eat a lot of prepackaged foods could be at greater risk for exposure.
The chemicals include nitrates and nitrites, often added to processed meats as a preservative, as well as bisphenol A, or BPA, which is used to make durable plastics and has been linked to cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease (SN: 10/3/15, p. 12). Also listed are phthalates, which help make plastic flexible, and perfluoroalkyl chemicals, or PFCs, which are resistant to stains, grease and water. These and other compounds have also been associated with endocrine disruption, obesity and insulin resistance, when cells don’t respond properly to insulin leading to an overproduction of the hormone (SN Online: 2/9/12).
Some of these chemicals may also have neurocognitive effects, such as increased hyperactivity in children, says study coauthor Sheela Sathyanarayana, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Scientists are unable to test the effects of these chemicals directly in humans, so evidence shows only that there is correlation, not causation, between exposure and disease.
To avoid these chemicals, the report suggests that parents buy fresh or frozen produce and skip processed meats packaged in plastic or food in metal cans, which can be lined with BPA. People should also avoid putting plastic containers in the dishwasher or microwave, the team says, where heat can draw chemicals out of plastic.
The researchers say that they hope the report prompts more strict regulation of these additives.
“All parents should be able to know what they are feeding their children,” Sathyanarayana says.