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WTBPA? (or Bisphenol A, What’s that about?)

Bisphenol A. 

What is it?  Where is it?  Is the a risk?  Won’t somebody please think about the children?

This is a toughie.  You may have contact with Bisphenol A (BPA) every day and just not know it.

What is it?  It is a monomer used in many plastic items like; polycarbonates, epoxy, phenolic, ethoxylene, ion-exchange resins, corrosion-resistant unsaturated polyester-styrene resins, reinforced pipes, food packaging materials and vulcanizates intended for use in contact with food and drink.  It is also one of many stabilizer for polyvinyl chloride (PVC.)

That’s a whole lot of BPA going around.  Canada just banned its use in baby bottles back on October 20, 2008.  Which is strange because the FDA, the ECB, the EFSA and the ACC all claim it is harmless as used in humans.  (FDA – US Food and Drug Administration, ECB – European Chemicals Bureau, EFSA – European Food Safety Authority, ACC – American Chemical Council)

However, the NTP (US National Toxicology Program) thinks that there could be a risk.  And they have announced that they will review its decision and re-evaluate the evidence.  And while telling us not to worry, the FDA has formed a BPA Task Force for the review of current research and new information.

That kind of leaves us all in the air, huh?  Canada says it is bad for babies and some groups want to ban it completely.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Have you used anything from the grocery store that is in a can?  Vegetables, aerosol whipped cream, tuna, soda, beer?  Most metal food cans are lined with and epoxy resin.  Remember that long paragraph earlier in this column?  Yep.  They all have BPA in them.  Now can manufacturers are looking into replacements.  They have to, it is a matter of economic survival.  Whether or not BPA is harmless, if the consumers want it gone, it had better go away.  You would pay a nickel more for safe packaging, right?  So even if it is harmless, industry will make more money off your fear.  The practice is very common.  Ever watch the “news?”

So what does BPA allegedly do?  The usual litany of diseases: cancer, diabetes, obesity, lower sperm count, Downs Syndrome, alters development of babies.  Not one good thing in the bunch.

How can we avoid it?  I’m glad you asked.  Stay away from polycarbonate bottles.  BPA can leach out of the plastic if heated, exposed to acids or even just with age.  (By the way, plastic water and soda bottles in the store don’t have BPA in them.)  Don’t cook in plastics.  I use glass on the rare occasion that I use a microwave.  Watch your recycle codes.  The safer choices for use with food are 1 (PETE), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP).  Try to avoid preparing, storing or eating/drinking from 3 (V), 6 (PS) and 7 (other, except new bio-based plastics that are labelled as such.)

Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave.  Beware of cling wraps for microwave use.  Use alternatives to plastic packaging whenever possible.  And always recycle everything you can!  If you want to know more, drop me a line and I will help as much as I can.

And to think people used to laugh at me when I drank out of a beaker…

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The Amazing Clitoris

Pop Quiz!

Is the clitoris more like an iceberg or a paper airplane?  Use both sides of your paper if necessary.

BOTH!!  But unless you have made a specific study of the body part in question, you may be amazed by that answer.  Let’s get scientific…

You may be familiar with the glans of the clitoris, or “the little man in the boat” as it was called back in my youth.  But the actual structure is much larger, with most of it hidden internally by bone and fat.  Just like an iceberg!  You see only the tip, but there is more, much more!  Now imagine a paper airplane.  Start at the point.  That is the glans.  Now follow the two wings outward at an angle.  These are the two arms of the clitoris.  They extend almost to where the muscles that run up the inner thigh end.  That makes the area where the inner leg meets the pelvis pretty sensitive.  No wonder she loves it when you nibble there!  Between the arms are two bulbs, one on each side of the vaginal opening.  Check out the illustration:

Anatomy

Anatomy

You may be wondering just what the heck all this does.  We have an idea, but believe it or not, the female sexual organs have never been studied as much as the men’s.  In fact much of what we now know about the clitoris has been recently re-discovered in the 1980’s.  No that isn’t a typo.  I really wrote since the 1980’s.  Kinda sad, huh?  For a long time, medical texts basically ignored the female sex stuff.  I read that the best information was from dissections done over a hundred years ago and that wasn’t quite accurate.

So, does the clitoris have a function?  Absolutely!  Lots of them!  Probably more than we have already figured out too.  For example, the clitoris surrounds the urethra on three sides while the fourth is embedded in the vaginal wall.  When stimulated, the erectile tissue swells and helps close the urethra possibly preventing bacteria from entering and causing bladder infections.  Yes, it can and does happen.  The bulbs swell keeping the vagina firm to aid penetration.  And you thought only men had erectile tissue.  Another favorite function is of course, aiding in orgasm.   We should talk about orgasms sometime.  Let’s plan it over coffee.

So from the look of things, it is possible that the G-Spot is really part of the clitoris.  Nibbling of the hip joints and pressure on the pubic bone all seem to make sense when you consider the total anatomy.  There may even be no difference among clitoral, vaginal and anal orgasms as everything seems to be tied together.  Fascinating!

So who finally did all this research?  Well one of the most important people you can thank Helen E. O’Connell (Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan) who has been spearheading the research into the anatomy and physiology of the clitoris and has been doing a lot of great work on health issues that effect women.  Hopefully with her work, urinary surgeries could be accomplished without compromising sexuality.  Just as prostate operations can leave some men partially impotent, many surgeries can damage the nerve pathways affecting the clitoris.  (The illustration is from her paper “Clitoral Anatomy in Nulliparous, Healthy, Premenopausal Volunteers Using Unenhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging” written with John O. L. DeLancey.  J Urol. 2005 June; 173(6): 2060-2063)  It’s a good read if you into that knid of thing.  (And I am!)

It’s about time.