Chemical Found in Plastic Water Bottles Can Lead to Obesity

July 12, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. obesity / oʊˈbi sɪ ti / (n.) – the medical condition of being very fat
Example: Many children in the world are suffering from obesity.

2. metabolism / məˈtæb əˌlɪz əm / (n.) – the biological process by which an organism uses food to produce energy
Example: People who exercise more have a higher metabolism.

3. factor / ˈfæk tər / (n.) – one of the things that affect a situation
Example: What you eat is a factor in your health.

4. erroneous / ɛˈroʊ-ni əs / (adj.) – wrong
Example: His guess about the cause of the problem was erroneous.

5. association / əˌsoʊ siˈeɪ ʃən / (n.) – connection of two or more things
Example: There is an association between poverty and crime. 


Read the text below.
A new study suggests a link between a chemical used in plastic water bottles and infant obesity.

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City conducted the study. It involved 369 mothers and their children from low-income areas in northern Manhattan. The researchers collected urine samples from the mothers during their third trimester of pregnancy. They discovered that 94% of the mothers who participated in the study had Bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine, which means that their children also had BPA in their system while in their mother’s womb.

In addition to testing their mother’s urine during pregnancy, the children also provided urine samples at age three and five to determine the presence of BPA. At age five and seven, the researchers measured the height and weight of the children. In addition, the waist circumference and fat mass of the children were measured at age seven. From these tests, the researchers learned that the children with higher levels of BPA also had a higher body fat percentage.

This led the scientists to conclude that exposure of expecting mothers to BPA through the use of plastic water bottles and even metal cans may cause obesity in their children.  According to the study, hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA do this by changing an infant's metabolism and the way fat cells are formed at a young age. Overall, this may present a hidden but significant factor in the obesity problems in children.

While the study may have presented a new finding regarding obesity, it still faced criticism from several groups. The American Chemistry Council denounced it as alarmist and erroneous, with Dr. Steven Hentges pointing out that the study only presented statistical association instead of presenting an actual cause and effect relationship between BPA and obesity. Professor Richard Sharpe of the Male Reproductive Health Research Team at the University of Edinburgh argued that while BPA affects hormones, its effects are significantly less than the natural substances in a mother's womb. Finally, the US Food and Drug Administration insists that BPA is safe.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Who do you find more convincing – the Columbia research team or its critics? Explain.
·         If you were part of the Columbia research team, what would you have done differently?

Discussion B

·         Do you think plastic bottles and metal cans should be banned based on the results of this study? Why or why not?
·         What are good alternatives to plastic bottles and metal cans? 

July 12, 2016