It seems like every time you turn around, there’s another study making headlines, trumpeting the dangers of something you likely already have in your home. And yes, in many cases, there is a reason to be concerned. If a toy that your child is playing with turns out to be toxic, you’re going to want to remove that item from your home, immediately. But what happens when a study sweeps the internet, newspapers and TV with words like, “might affect” and “could be linked to” and “more research is needed”?
That’s the question we we’re faced with in light of a new study about the affects of bisphenol-A (BPA)—a chemical used in some hard plastic products—on girls’ behaviour. Researchers studied urine samples from 244 pregnant woman in the Cincinnati area and then had those women complete a questionnaire about their child’s behaviour when the child turned three. Their findings were published in the journal Pediatrics. According to the results, female children whose mothers had high levels of BPA in their urine during pregnancy had worse scores (though still within the “normal range”) when it came to anxiety and hyperactivity, compared to other children of the same age.
While we’re not about to dismiss the potential health risks associated with BPA—it is officially recognized in Canada as a toxic substance—in this particular instance, we have to wonder why findings were released before more concrete evidence of the link between BPA exposure and behavioural issues was found. As noted by the Associated Press: “The results are not conclusive and experts not involved in the study said factors other than BPA might explain the results. The researchers acknowledge that ‘considerable debate’ remains about whether BPA is harmful, but say their findings should prompt additional research.”
That said, if you are currently pregnant and are concerned about your exposure to BPA, the study’s researchers have suggested that “BPA exposure can be reduced by avoiding canned and packaged foods, receipts, and polycarbonate bottles with the recycling symbol 7.” And while it’s better to be safe than sorry, this situation may serve as a reminder to look at these kinds of studies a little more closely before jumping right to panic.