A new study published in American Chemical Society found that certain teething products often used for young children and babies may contain bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens and antimicrobials — all materials that are used in personal care products and plastics that have been banned or restricted by the U.S. government.
Unlike personal care products, teethers haven’t been thoroughly investigated for BPA. This study did some of that leg work, though, and found that all plastic teethers included in the study had some level of BPA or similar materials.
These products also had endocrine-disrupters (EDCs), which, research says “can potentially interfere with hormones and have harmful developmental, reproductive and neurological effects,” according to the study’s press release
The U.S. and the European Commission banned the use of BPA in baby bottles because of that research.
“Some manufacturers say they have started reducing BPA and other EDCs in additional products, even those not made for children,” according to the study’s press release. “But very few if any studies have investigated whether the compounds are used to make teethers and if the compounds leach out of these products, which are designed to soothe babies’ gums when their teeth come in.”
To find this, researchers looked at 59 different teethers purchased online — some filled with gel, others with water. They tested for 26 specific endocrine-disrupting chemicals, even though they were labeled as BPA free.
All of these products contained BPA.
Based on the study’s research of how often a 12-month-old baby would use his or her teether, the study found that this would include less BPA intake than the European Commission recommends as the maximum.
Still, the researchers caution that those regulations don’t account for children having multiple EDCs.
Children who don’t use teethers any more may also be exposed to BPAs. According to a 2015 study out of Stanford University, school lunches may contain certain levels of the toxic chemical. This was especially an issue in low-income neighborhoods, where the schools cut costs in order to prepare more food for children in those areas.
Jennifer Hartle, a researcher for the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in a press release that students are especially at risk because they consume BPAs.
“During school site visits, I was shocked to see that virtually everything in school meals came from a can or plastic packaging,” Hartle said, according to the press release. “Meat came frozen, pre-packaged, pre-cooked and pre-seasoned. Salads were pre-cut and pre-bagged. Corn, peaches and green beans came in cans. The only items not packaged in plastic were oranges, apples and bananas.”
Though this seems foreboding, researchers admit there’s not a lot of solid research about how BPAs affect children. Though some animal research says there are issues, it’s been difficult to regulate how much people should be allowed to consume.
A 2013 study found that BPA consumption could put children at risk for future heart disease, according to Time magazine. This report added to an already growing list of future complications for BPA consumers, like behavioral issues, obesity problems and asthma.
The study, published in Kidney International by researchers from New York University, analyzed the eating habits of 710 American youngsters from 6 to 19 years old. They recorded the amount of BPA in a child’s urine and found that those who had high levels of BPA also had high levels of albumin — a protein that can build up when kidneys are damaged.
That issue, according to Time, can bring about heart or kidney disease.
“This study doesn’t definitively say that BPA causes heart or kidney disease,” Dr. Leonardo Trasande, the study’s lead author, told Time. “The increase in albumin leakage is fairly small, but there are studies in adults that suggest that even that small increment is associated with a higher risk of later heart disease.”
Meanwhile, Hartle said that it shouldn’t matter how much children can consume. Since it puts youngsters in danger, it should be nixed altogether, she said.
“Even a dose of one extra microgram per day could be a big deal,” Hartle said. “If this is an avoidable exposure, do we need to risk it? If we can easily cut it out, why wouldn’t we?”
Hartle suggested in the study for parents to talk to school administrators about their concerns. She also said parents may want to encourage their children to eat healthier food.
“The bottom line is more fresh fruits and vegetables,” Hartle said. “There is a movement for more fresh veggies to be included in school meals, and I think this paper supports that.”