Eating from plastics during pregnancy exposes babies to health risks (14 October 2014) spread
PREGNANT women who regularly eat food packaged in plastic materials risk exposing their unborn babies to dangerous chemicals.
This exposure could lead to prostate and breast cancers later in the lives of the children.
According to a retired Clinical Chemist/ Toxicologist, Prof. Nii-Ayi Ankrah, during placenta transfer, the chemical would be transferred to the foetus if it does not have a well-developed defence mechanism.
“The implication is that the foetus will be damaged before the birth of the baby,” he said.
The former Head of the Clinical Pathology Department of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) told the Daily Graphic that generally for toxins, once the foetuses are exposed, there was danger.
Prof. Ankrah said two chemicals—Phthalates and Bisphenol A—which are present in plastic materials of everyday use, posed health risks that also included the destruction of the kidney.
Apart from being used for food packaging, Phthalates, which are used to make plastics more flexible and so more difficult to break, are used in hundreds of products, including vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, raincoats, plastic clothes and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays and nail polishes).
According to experts, since phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastics they are added to, they are continuously released into the air, food or liquid.
The International Chemical Secretariat (ICS), a non-governmental organisation that champions a world free of hazardous chemicals, maintains that Phthalates exert a wide array of effects in the body.
Public health issue
Prof. Ankrah said the growing use of plastics in such manner was a public health hazard that needed to be addressed immediately before it got out of hand.
He warned that if this continued, in some years to come, cases of damaged kidneys would become a health concern in the country.
He said while it would be difficult to enforce a law banning the use of plastics for wrapping foods or covering food on fire, food safety regulatory institutions could enact a law and enforce it by cracking down on food vendors using plastics in that manner.
While admitting that he was not aware of local research to confirm or reject researches conducted on the subject elsewhere, he stated that there were tonnes of evidence from elsewhere that showed that the two chemicals were not safe.
Concerns about some chemicals in food packaging have been taken seriously in recent years.
Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical used to make hard, clear plastic, which is also present in many bottles and metal food and drink cans, for which it is used as a lining, is to be banned from being used in food packaging in France from 2015.
It is used to line cans to prevent corrosion and food contamination. It also makes plastic cups and baby and other bottles transparent and shatterproof.
According to some researchers, BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, which means it interferes with how hormones work in the body by blocking their normal function.
However, in an earlier interview with the Daily Graphic, Mr Kofi Essel, a Principal Regulatory Officer of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), said the rate at which BPA leached into food was highly dependent on the temperature of the food, adding that the temperature at which food came into contact with such plastics in Ghana posed no danger to consumers.
“There are certain things you cannot totally eliminate. There are some amounts of chemicals that are allowed in food. The body has its own mechanism to excrete these chemicals,” he explained.