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May 3, 2013

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Chemical linked to obesity in children

SHANGHAI researchers have confirmed that exposure to bisphenol A or BPA, a chemical found in some plastics, is linked to child obesity.

In studies of 259 children between the ages of eight and 15, researchers from Fudan University's Public Health School found the higher the BPA density in their urine, the fatter the children were.

The nation's first study into BPA and child obesity was published in the US-based Environmental Health journal, the university said yesterday.

Bisphenol A is a common component of plastic bottles and the linings of food and drink cans and may affect hormone activity in the body. Some studies have linked it to changes in metabolism, reproductive disorders, problems with children's immunity and cancer.

In China, the government banned the production and import of baby food containers containing BPA, including baby feeding bottles, in 2011 following a similar ban in the European Union.

Studies in other countries have also shown a link with child obesity, though whether it helps cause obesity and how it works is not clear.

Zhou Yin, the study's leader, said obesity had become a serious problem in China. In Shanghai, the obesity rate of primary school students in one district grew from 15.85 percent in 2005 to 19.85 percent in 2010, Zhou said.

In the Fudan study, 84.9 percent of children were found to have BPA in their urine with the amount directly linked to their level of obesity.

Researchers said intake through diet is a major source, while children are also exposed to the chemical through the air and skin.

Zhou's team has begun a three-year study involving 1,500 participants in Shanghai and the neighboring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang on how and to what degree children are being exposed to BPA and how it is affecting their health.


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