2 more reasons to eliminate BPA: Obesity and diabetes

A group of chemicals that carry the moniker of "gender benders" may be causing increased rates of obesity and diabetes, according to a new report out of the U.K.

The gender benders in question include chemicals that have been at the center of other campaigns or companies' efforts to remove then from products: bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and some industrial chemicals that have been banned but are persistent in the environment and can still contaminate food.

Each chemical itself can disrupt hormones, hence the nickname, and because they can be found in food and a wide array of everyday items, people are exposed to a mix of the chemicals everyday.

CHEM Trust (Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring), a U.K. group, commissioned the report, which reviewed more than 240 studies on obesity, diabetes and chemicals. The report could put more pressure on companies to stop using these chemicals: CHEM Trust is adding its voice to other groups calling for governments to regulate these chemicals and companies to remove them from their products.

BPA is found in the epoxy liners of canned food, some hard plastic water bottles, toys, receipts and many other goods. Phthalates are used in some plastics, and BFRs are used in electronics, foam furniture, and have even been found in soda.

Looking at research on both laboratory animals and humans, the report concludes there is "compelling" evidence that these chemicals can lead to obesity and diabetes whether people are exposed to them while in the womb, during development as a child or even in adulthood.

The chemicals' impacts come in the form of disrupting appetite, fat storage and sugar regulation, the report says.

While health and environmental groups have advocated for companies to reduce or eliminate the use of such chemicals, they've been hard pressed for evidence linking specific chemicals to ailments. The challenge comes from the fact that people can be exposed to these chemicals from various sources, and effects can happen over a period of time, or from a mixture of chemicals.

Many companies, though, have eliminated use of these chemicals -- Campbell's has said it would remove BPA from its soup cans, for example -- for various reasons: pressure from interest groups, public demand, a drive to use replacement chemicals known to be safer and government regulations, as some states and cities in the U.S. have banned the use of BPA in certain products, primarily baby and child goods.

Photo by Luis Louro via Shutterstock.