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Bad news: Your BPA-free plastic bottles are still totally poisoning you

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Cancer, obesity, ADHD, low sperm count, heart problems, liver disease, genital deformity… these are just a few of the terrifying litany of problems that have been linked to the estrogenic chemicals that leach into our bodies from plastic products.

The discovery that chemicals from plastic products have been slowly seeping into the bodies of both humans and animals, and messing with our hormones in the process, is what has lead to the frenzied marketing of BPA-free plastic products.

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Bisphenol A (or BPA) was the first compound found in plastic that has estrogenic effects. News that BPA could be damaging, even in low doses, started to emerge in 1997, but it wasn’t until around 2008 that it really hit mainstream consciousness.

Cue a wave of new, supposedly ‘safe’ plastics hitting the market. You’ll notice now that everything from baby bottles to blenders is advertised as BPA-free.

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But, more recent studies have shown that BPA is not the only estrogenic compound we need to worry about. Many other plastics can be just as, if not more, estrogenic, even those advertised as safe.

A shocking report by Mother Jones has revealed that several leading brands of BPA free water bottles, baby bottles and sippy cups have tested positive for estrogenic activities. Almost as disturbing as the results themselves, the plastics industry has hired many of the scientists and lawyers used by the tobacco industry to try and obscure this fact.

The problem with estrogenic chemicals is that, while they certainly have a negative impact on your health, the damage is not immediately obvious. Sometimes, problems can even take generations to manifest. "A poison kills you," biology professor Frederick vom Saal told Mother Jones. "A chemical like BPA reprograms your cells and ends up causing a disease in your grandchild that kills him."

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Mother Jones has a by no means comprehensive list of brands that have and have not tested positive for estrogenic effects. But, worryingly, it only takes a very small change in the chemical composition of a plastic bottle for it to start leaching harmful chemicals. George Bitner, the founder of CertiChem, a company that tests products for estrogenic activity, told Mother Jones "Everything depends on the exact chemicals that are in a given product. Something as small as tweaking the colorant can make a big difference."

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Right now, the unfortunate situation we're in is that no plastic can be assumed to be 100% safe. So what can you do to deal with it?

To start with, stop using plastics in the microwave and dishwasher, as much as possible. Even plastics that claim to be safe when exposed to heat might actually be problematic. Replace anything you're exposing to heat with glass and ceramic substitutes.

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The Mayo Clinic reports that BPA plastics are often used to line tin cans. They recommend limiting the amount of canned food you use.

Finally, stay on top of the latest science around plastics. Mother Jones is doing a brilliant job of reporting on the issue. While locally, the ABC has been tracking the latest findings.

You can even write to your local MP and let them know your concerns. Because estrogenic activity is so slow acting, this is one of those issues that won't get heard unless you make it heard. And if you don't, it could be your grandchildren who pay the price.

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