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According to research presented late last month at the European Congress of Endocrinology, a a child’s early exposure to the chemicals in plastics and fungicides may weaken their teeth for a lifetime.

Really.

Exposure to these pervasive chemicals – collectively known as hormone disruptors – seems to affect the hormones necessary for the growth of dental enamel. This can set up children for a lifetime of dental issues.

In particular, the study noted the nature of a chemical in plastic known as bisphenol A (BPA) and vinclozolin, a common fungicide.

BPA BPS sourcesThis study is concerning because, let’s face it, our lives are full of plastic that contains BPA. We drink from it and eat from it. We wrap, store and can our food with it. It’s found in toys, sports equipment, thermal paper receipts, even CDs and DVDs.

BPA is also present in many dental sealants and composite materials. (Fortunately, as we noted before, there are BPA-free alternatives available.)

But fungicides? You may not be aware that vinclozolin is commonly used to control blights, rots, and molds in edibles. Already banned in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, vinclozolin is still used in US orchards, vineyards, and on golf course turf. It lurks on conventional fruits and vegetables prone to fungal diseases including green beans, lettuce, onions, peaches, plums, raspberries and strawberries.

The problem when children are exposed to these hormone disruptors it that their permanent first molars and incisors may develop a condition known as molar incisor hyper-mineralization. This causes sensitive spots that become painful and are more prone to cavities.

While chemicals may be problematic on their own, little is known of the risks with combined exposure, to which we are all exposed. The current study exposed rats to a daily dose of BPA that’s equivalent to normal human BPA exposure. But they also exposed them to a daily dose of BPA and vinclozolin together – again, equivalent to normal human exposure.

It was the combination of chemicals that changed the expression of two genes responsible for controlling the mineralization of tooth enamel.

Since tooth enamel begins in the third trimester of pregnancy and ends at the child’s age of five, researchers warn that their exposure to these chemicals should be avoided until after that developmental period. This “would be one way,” noted the study’s lead author, “of reducing the risk of enamel weakening.”

But clearly, these hormone disruptors aren’t just a problem for kids’ teeth. They’re associated with hormonal interference in all humans and may increase the risk of birth defects, cancer, fertility issues, and more in all ages.

If you’re concerned and want to limit your exposure to the chemicals in plastics, create your own toolbox with help from plastic-free blogs such as this and this.

Looking to avoid foods treated with dangerous chemicals? Check out Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for help in selecting clean produce.

With a bit of effort, you’ll find that it is possible to limit you and your family’s exposure to these hormone disrupting chemicals.

Image by DES Daughter

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