The chemicals added to food and used in food packaging are potentially harmful to children, said a major pediatricians’ group Monday.
Chemicals used in packaging and in processed meats, among others, can lead to obesity, puberty issues and other health problems, said the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The group is calling for “urgently needed reforms” at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In a policy statement, the AAP, which represents 67,000 children’s doctors, argued for more rigorous testing and regulation of food additives.
Additives may be added directly to food or leach into packaging and plastics.
All humans are impacted by the chemicals, but children are hurt the most, said Leonardo Trasande, the statement’s lead author. The environmental health researcher with New York University’s School of Medicine, told HealthDay:
“Pound for pound, (children) eat more food, they have higher levels of exposure compared to us adults. Their organs are still developing in various ways, such that effects on that development can be permanent and lifelong.”
Where the chemicals come from
- Bisphenols, like BPA, which are used in the lining of metal cans. They can act like estrogen in the body. This can affect the onset of puberty, increase body fat, decrease fertility and impact the nervous system and immune system.
- Phtalates, which are found in plastics, can impact male genital development, childhood obesity and heart disease.
- Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), which are used in grease-proof food packaging, could reduce immunity, birth weight and fertility.
- Percholate, which is added in dry food packaging to control static electricity, is known to disrupt thyroid function and can affect early brain development.
- Nitrates and nitrites, which are used to preserve food and found in processed meats, can interfere with thyroid hormone production.
What parents can do
The AAP policy statement suggested a few low-cost practices to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals in food:
- Eat fresh or frozen produce when possible.
- Use glass or stainless steel containers.
- Avoid using plastics in the microwave or dishwasher.
- Don’t use plastics with the recycling codes 3, 6 or 7.
- Eat fewer processed meats.
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling food, and clean all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
HealthDay contributed to this report.
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