March 30/San Francisco/USA TODAY -- Adults and children can reduce their exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals, including bisphenol-A (BPA), by eating more fruits and vegetables and less food from plastic containers and metal cans, a new study says.

A group of 20 San Francisco residents had 66% less BPA in their urine after three days on a diet of fresh, organic and unpackaged food, scientists found. Their levels of another chemical, bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP, fell 53-56%.

"The is the first study to provide clear evidence that food packaging is a major source of BPA and DEHP exposure in children and adults," says co-author Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, a Massachusetts-based non-profit that studies environmental factors in women's health.

BPA is so prevalent in food packaging and other consumer items that prior research has detected its presence in at least 90% of Americans. It is used to harden plastics in products such as bottles and cups and is also found in the linings of metal cans and thermal cash register receipts. Phthalates such as DEHP are used to soften PVC and other plastics.

Much debate exists about the safety of these chemicals, which have been linked in studies to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents plastic manufacturers, argues BPA levels remain safe. In January 2010, the Food and Drug Administration expressed "some concerns" about its potential effects on the brain development of fetuses, infants and children. It did not say the chemical is unsafe.

"FDA supports reasonable steps to reduce exposure of infants to BPA in the food supply," FDA spokesperson Douglas Karas said.

Karas said the U.S. government is spending $30 million for the National Institutes of Health to research BPA's safety, and the FDA is supporting the efforts of food-packaging companies to find alternatives. More U.S. cities and states, led by Chicago, Connecticut and Minnesota, are banning the use of BPA in food and drink containers intended for children 3 and younger. Canada has banned its use in baby bottles.

To detect its impact on food packaging, a team of nine scientists -- some with Brody's group and others with the Breast Cancer Fund -- studied five families in San Francisco, each with two children and two adults, in January 2010. They tested the participants' urine before, during and after a three-day organic diet that consisted of fruits, vegetables, grains and meat and banned plastic utensils as well as storage and heating containers. Their research appears in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The American Chemistry Council, in a statement, said the study shows "consumers have minute exposures to BPA and DEHP from food sources, and that the substances do not stay in the body, but are quickly eliminated through natural means."

From the March 31, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News