Click here to read “The Plastic Panic” by Jerome Groopman from this week’s New Yorker. (The sub-headline is “How worried should we be about everyday chemicals?”)
[The] finding that chemicals like PAH [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons], which can also be a component of air pollution, are passed from mother to child during pregnancy has now been replicated for more than two hundred compounds. These include PCBs, chemical coolants that were banned in the United States in 1979 but have persisted in the food chain; BPA and phthalates, used to make plastics more pliable, which leach out of containers and mix with their contents; pesticides used on crops and on insects in the home; and some flame retardants, which are often applied to upholstery, curtains, and other household items.
Fetuses and newborns lack functional enzymes in the liver and other organs that break down such chemicals, and animal studies in the past several decades have shown that these chemicals can disrupt hormones and brain development. Some scientists believe that they may promote chronic diseases seen in adulthood such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer.