By Lindsay Toler
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All of this vindication should be gratifying to vom Saal and his Endocrine Disruptors team, but there's no time to celebrate. Vom Saal is up to his ears in teaching classes and in his latest studies, which focus on the link between bisphenol A and obesity.
"We're working on the interaction of natural nutrients and fetal growth, and how these chemicals alter fetal growth and program fat cells to then accumulate abnormal amounts of fat," he explains.
On MU's campus, in the basement of Lefevre Hall, one dishwasher is constantly running. It's full of plastic baby bottles — all different brands. Some start leaching bisphenol A after the first 10 washes, vom Saal says. Others take more than 100, but at some point, they all start breaking down. Fill them with juice, and acids from the fruit strip the bisphenol A from the plastic faster. Fill them with milk or formula, which contain lipids, and the bisphenol A links to the fat molecules in the milk.
Vom Saal is also swamped with media requests.
Last month, he helped PBS film a "house audit" in which he went to a home with small children and pointed out all of the products containing bisphenol A. This was the second house audit he'd done, and it went considerably better than the first one, when the team found so many offending products that the mother burst into tears.
You won't find any plastic bottles in vom Saal's home. He rolls his eyes at the perceived safety of water filtered through Brita brand pitchers — charcoal-filtered water is great, but not when it empties into a polycarbonate jug.
"Stay away from food packaging in plastic. Put no plastic in any kind of heat, specifically in the microwave," he offers. "Virtually anyone we know who knows about this has really changed their lifestyle. And these are very simple things to do. It's not a crisis, not using canned products," he says of the fact that bisphenol A is also used in the lining of aluminum cans. "If you drink beer, drink it out of a glass bottle instead of out of a can."
As for Welshons and Nagel, they're married with six-year-old twins. Even they haven't been able to follow the no-plastic rule perfectly. They used glass baby bottles, but recently they discovered that the detachable nipples contained traces of bisphenol A.