School Meals Contain Too Much BPA: Study

New research raises concerns about cafeteria school lunches served to many kids throughout the U.S., indicating that the meals may contain too much of the endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol-a (BPA), potentially harming young developing minds and bodies. 

In a study published last month in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, researchers from Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the amount of BPA in school lunches, interviewing food service managers and visiting school cafeterias and kitchens to see what foods were served and how they were kept.

The findings suggest that some children are ingesting amounts of BPA through school lunch programs that could damage or stunt their development.

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Jennifer Hartle, co-author of the study and former fellow at Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, together with a team of researchers, calculated the amount of BPA the children may be ingesting, taking into consideration food packaging, canned food linings, and eating utensils which may contain BPA.

The main concern is that BPA, approved for use in food packaging, can migrate into the foods the packaging contacts.

The study indicates the single meal doses modeled in this research are at the same order of magnitude as the low dose toxicity thresholds, revealing school lunches may expose children to chronic toxic levels of BPA.

The study found most children received a negligible amount of BPA in their lunch, yet some received higher doses, ranging from 0.00049 micrograms per kilogram of body weight to 1.19 micrograms per kilogram.

While critics say this is a low amount and may not be worth the worry, previous research reveals children with developing organ systems, in utero or at young developing ages, are especially susceptible to hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like BPA, which can mimic the body’s hormones disrupting normal hormone processes.

A 2014 study published in the FASEB Journal revealed fetal exposure to BPA may increase the likelihood of food intolerances later in adulthood.

Additionally, a 2013 study found effects of BPA exposure even at low doses. Researchers found effects in mammals at doses 10 to 40 times lower than the current low dose threshold. Other studies have linked BPA to brain development problems and childhood obesity.

The findings of this latest study are leading to calls for parents to ask school systems to include fresh food instead of canned or prepackaged fruits or vegetables.

While salad bars have been installed in many schools in response to the push for more nutritious school lunches, they often include canned and prepackaged fruits, beans and other items. Most schools serve canned foods for breakfast and lunch.

Hartle recommends sending children with prepared lunches from home in BPA free metal lunch boxes and thermoses and to ensure they eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

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