By Fiona Macrae
A gender-bending chemical found in babies’ bottles may raise their odds of prostate cancer in later life, scientists have warned.
In experiments, newborn rats fed bisphenol A, a building-block of many commonly-used plastics, were more likely to develop pre-cancerous cells as they aged.
With chemical levels similar to those commonly found in the human body, the researchers said their findings are directly relevant to babies’ health.
Their warning comes just a week after the European food watchdog said that the amounts of the chemical we are exposed to in day-to-day life are too low to do any harm.
The Food Standards Agency also said that bisphenol A does not carry a risk but the latest study raises fresh concerns about the compound which is also found in CD cases, tin can linings, sunglasses, plastic knives and forks, mobile phones and dental sealants.
The American researchers showed that giving newborn rats the chemical raised their odds of developing cellular damage that can lead to prostate cancer in later life. Both mouth drops and injections were equally damaging.
University of Illinois researcher Gail Prins said: ‘There was no difference in the number of lesions, whether the bisphenol A was given by injection or orally, the prostate pathology was the same.
This is important, because it many previous studies which have focused on jabs have been criticised for not being true to life and their results downplayed.
The latest research suggests that the damage seen in such experiments also occurs when we access it through food and drink.
Bisphenol A has previously been linked to fertility problems, breast cancer, prostate cancer and heart attacks.
Writing in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, Dr Prins said: ‘These findings on prostate health are directly relevant to humans at current bisphenol A exposure levels.
‘These findings support the proposal that exposures to bisphenol a during foetal and neonatal life may increase the risk of carcinogenic events during adult life and in the human population.’
Elizabeth Salter Green, of the Chemicals, Health And Environment Monitoring Trust, said: ‘Responsible governments need to find alternatives to bisphenol A as so many consumer products are made using this chemical and we are all constantly exposed.’
Campaigners say that those concerned about the chemical should use bisphenol A-free baby bottles, cut down on their use of canned foods and opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers where possible.
They should also avoid heating foods, including baby meals, in polycarbonate plastic food containers – often marked with a ‘7’ on the bottom – as the chemical can leak out of the plastic at high temperature.
Prostate cancer is most common cancer among men and the second highest killer, after lung cancer. Some 35,000 Britons a year are diagnosed with it – and 10,000 die.