Avoiding BPA & phthalates is harder than it seems

If you want to know how tough it is to lower your levels of BPA and phthalates, just take a look at what happened when 10 families were actually given some help avoiding these hormone-like chemicals.

Half were given a handout on the best ways to reduce exposure -- including not putting plastic food containers in the microwave and avoiding canned goods.

Five days later, they had no changes in their BPA and phthalate levels -- a big disappointment since these chemicals have been linked to obesity, diabetes, developmental problems, sexual dysfunction, and more.

The rest of the families hit the research equivalent of the jackpot: They were given handcrafted organic meals carefully prepared from scratch by a caterer who didn't cook, store, or serve the food in plastic.

Sounds good, right?

I'm sure it tasted good, too -- but five days later, these families actually saw their levels of one common phthalate skyrocket by 25 times. And in children, daily levels of exposure were 9 times higher than the safe limit recommended by the EPA.

Adding insult to injury, their BPA levels actually rose slightly, too.

Since their levels returned to normal when they went back to their regular everyday diets, the exposure must've come from the fresh organic foods -- so researchers tested the ingredients used in those meals.

And -- surprise! -- they found high levels of phthalates in organic dairy products, including milk, butter, cream, and cheese, as well as in spices such as cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and ground coriander.

In the case of dairy, it seems the phthalate contamination came from the plastic tubes and such used when cows are milked. The fats in dairy do a pretty good job of absorbing phthalates, so all it takes is that brief exposure for moo juice to turn into a chemical cocktail.

The spices were harder to trace, but the best guess is that they were also contaminated during the manufacturing process.

Since most of the exposure came from those sources, I have a two-step solution (in addition to the usual advice about avoiding packaged foods and plastics):

First, avoid dairy. We weren't designed to drink the milk of another creature anyway, and it shows in the high number of dairy sensitivities and allergies we see.

Try organic nut milks instead of regular milk.

Second, make sure your spices are as fresh as the rest of your food -- because a little pinch of contamination can wreck your whole meal, and you'll never even know it.

For another reason to avoid BPA, keep reading.