Can Canned Foods Cause Sex Problems?

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The newspapers and the Internet are full of reports that men exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) [a chemical additive used in cans, plastic bottles, and more] have higher levels of erectile disfunction. Before going into a panic, take a look at the study details. This one was a survey of factory workers in China exposed to exceptionally high levels of this endocrine-disrupting chemical.

What does the study mean for men exposed to much lower levels? We don't have a clue. But we've heard plenty of unsettling things about BPA, including accounts by Jill Richardson and others of the extraordinary efforts of industry lobbyists to prevent officials from banning BPA. This new research suggests that a ban is a pretty good idea, even if most people are not harmed by small amounts.

Reasons?

    • BPA is not essential in the human diet.

    • It is an unnecessary contaminant.

    • Small amounts of harmful chemicals can accumulate in the body.

    • We have no idea what the threshold for harm might be.

    • Removing it from the food and water supply is not all that difficult.

In sum, everyone except makers of BPA plastics can do just fine without it. I'm stuck; I can't think of a single reason not to ban it.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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