Childhood Exposure to Chemical in Plastics Can Lead to Anxiety in Adulthood
By on September 8th, 2012

Science continues to reveal the many ways in which the substances we commonly use can harm us. BPA (Bisphenol-A) is a component of plastics which has been under scrutiny for many years because of its hormone-like properties and its effects on the hormonal system, and because it has been known to generate anxiety in mice. Now, researchers have further underlined the harmful effects of this chemical.

BPA Leads to Increased Anxiety in Mice

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that exposure of mice to this chemical during development leads to increased anxiety symptoms in adolescence. A set of mice was exposed to this chemical via water throughout development in a dosage within the limits of human exposure. Then, throughout their lifetimes, they were tested for behavioural differences and changes in expression of 48 genes in a region of the brain involved in emotional responses (the amygdala). It was found that these animals displayed distinct anxiogenic symptoms; moreover, genes regulating anxiety and sociosexual behaviour in a region of the brain called the amygdala were found to be differently expressed in these mice during adolescence, though these effects waned during adulthood. The authors note, here, that the waning in adulthood could be due to mechanisms specific to mice and this effect will have to be investigated further.

The lining of food cans contains BPA which is known to act on the hormonal system.

Soy can Counteract Some of BPA’s Effects

The good news, if you’re looking for a silver lining, is that these harmful effects were mitigated in mice that were also consuming soy along with BPA. An organic component of soy called genistein (GEN) reverses the effects induced by BPA. However, it MUST be noted that the holistic effects on genistein itself are not known, and any compound which affects the hormonal system must be studied before consumption, particularly during pregnancy and development. It is too early to say that soy is the ‘cure’ to a BPA diet.

So, How Can We Avoid BPA?

Canada has banned the use of BPA. However, the United States continues to allow its use. Though the use of BPA in plastics has greatly reduced since 2003, it is still used in thermal plastic receipts and in lining the insides of food cans. In 2011, it was found that the bodies of 96% of pregnant women in the United States contained BPA. Without meaning to sound alarmist, NIH has a set of guidelines for people who are worried about being exposed to BPA—canned foods are the major source via which BPA can enter our bodies.

You can read about this research here.

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Author: Shweta Ramdas
Beginning life as a grad student studying human genetics.

Shweta Ramdas has written and can be contacted at
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