We have written about the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in previous issues. Now another question arises relating to BPA: should BPA be used by dentists? That’s the dilemma for parents worried about this controversial substance found in the popular sealants that are painted on children’s molars to prevent decay. The chemical, which is widely used in the making of the hard, clear plastic called polycarbonate, is also found in the linings of food and soft-drink cans. Most human exposure to the chemical clearly comes from the food supply. But traces have also been found in dental sealants.
Although the Food and Drug Administration has reassured consumers that the chemical appears to be safe, it has received increasing scrutiny in recent months from health officials in the United States and Canada. The National Toxicology Program, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, has raised concerns about BPA, particularly over childhood exposure to the traces that leach from polycarbonate baby bottles and the linings of infant formula cans. The 2003-4 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of urine samples collected from more than 2,500 adults and children over six. This survey was done in 2003 and 2004.
BPA has estrogen-like effects, and animal studies have suggested that exposure may accelerate puberty and raise a potential risk of cancer. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported in October that the chemical might interfere with chemotherapy treatment. And The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that adults with higher levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to have heart disease or diabetes.
Despite these concerns, the American Dental Association remains strongly in favor of sealants. Dentists note that numerous studies show that any exposure they cause is negligible and temporary, lasting no more than three hours after the initial application. And other studies have found no detectable levels of BPA in most American-made sealants. Meanwhile, sealants have been shown to offer years of protection against cavities. So the bottom line is simply cavities versus the safety risks of BPA. Parents concerned about BPA exposure should ask their dentists what type of sealant they use and whether it has been tested for BPA.
Source: New York Times
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