See Inside January 2008

Fighting Toxins in the Home

Everyday materials may pose health and environmental threats

Researchers are continually finding new evidence that common items in our kitchens, bathrooms and toy chests can make us sick. One of the most insidious substances is bisphenol A, a component of the light plastics used in baby bottles and many other consumer products. Over the past several years, scientists have reported that low levels of bisphenol A can disrupt cell division, leading to spontaneous miscarriages and birth defects such as Down syndrome.

In early 2007 a team led by Patricia A. Hunt of Washington State University found that small amounts of bisphenol A interfered with the growth of egg cells in developing female mouse embryos. As many as 40 percent of the eggs from fetuses exposed to bisphenol A had an abnormal number of chromosomes. This stunning finding showed that the chemical's effects can run through three generations: the pregnant mother's exposure damages the daughter's reproductive cells, which in turn disrupts the development of the daughter's own children.

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