Millions of people have been contaminated with potentially dangerous gender-bending chemicals from food packaging, drinks cans and baby bottles, a study shows.
Researchers say the general public is 'ubiquitously' exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) - a man-made chemical linked to breast cancer, fertility problems and birth defects. The chemical, which mimics the female sex hormone oestrogen, was found at detectable levels in most pregnant women, teenagers and children.
Although the levels are within the official safety guidelines, anti-chemical campaigners say there is worrying evidence that BPA is harmful at low levels. They accused government agencies around the world of ignoring the mounting evidence against BPA - and putting health at risk.
BPA is used to make linings of food and drink cans. It is also found in plastic bottles, CD cases, plastic knives and forks and dental sealants. Although some animal studies have shown it is safe, others link it to breast cancer, liver damage, obesity, diabetes and fertility problems in animals. Studies have also linked it to heart disease in women.
Canada is so concerned at the threat it has banned BPA from babies' bottles. However, the Food Standards Agency insists that exposure levels in Britain are safe.
The new study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, analysed more than 80 studies which measured concentrations of BPA in bodily fluids.