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Problems With Plastics?

Consumers are confused about the safety of chemicals in plastic. Even federal government agencies don't agree about the hazards posed by bisphenol-A, or BPA, an estrogen-like chemical used in plastic.

The controversial component of plastic packaging is under investigation and today, the Food and Drug Administration is holding a meeting to discuss exactly what the risks are. CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook talked more about those risks and how to avoid them.

"What's the controversy over this bisphenol or BPA?" The Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked LaPook.

"Well, it's everywhere. More than 90 percent of us have it in our body and the question is, is it safe," LaPook said. "And the problem is that most of the studies are in rats and mice which have shown it can do some harm. It acts like an estrogen. It can mimic estrogen in the body. And so you can effect breast development, you can maybe change the timing of puberty but that's in rats. What about man? Well two weeks ago, for the first time, there was a study of monkeys showing it can affect brain development. This has heated up the controversy and this afternoon the FDA is going to meet about it."

"OK, so let's say we want to avoid it just in case, how do we know what it's in?" Rodriguez asked.

"It's not easy because it's not clearly labeled. One thing is that on the bottom of hard plastic containers, it makes plastic hard, on the bottom of hard plastic containers is the number 7." LaPook said, noting that it can be difficult to read the number on some containers. "For now that is the one we know (contains BPA) for sure.

"Now, it's also in the lining of cans, it's in soda cans and food cans, it can potentially leech out, that's the fear," LaPook said.

"What about baby bottles?" Rodriguez asked.

"Baby bottles differ, some of them are clearly labeled bisphenol-A free," LaPook said.

"This is what you want to look for," Rodriguez said.

"Well, if you want to avoid BPA, because there is a controversy about it," LaPook said.

"Let's just say we want to avoid it," Rodriguez said. "This is what I wonder about. When you microwave baby bottles, when put them in the dishwasher."

"If you put them in the dishwasher with harsh detergent, if you microwave them, there is the potential, theoretically, that it can leech out, the BPA can leech out and potentially contaminate your food," LaPook said. "The National Toxicology Program, the NTP, is saying avoid this if you want to avoid BPA exposures."

"And what about this? Why do you have this?" Rodriguez asked, showing a bag of frozen food.

"These are frozen foods. Fresh foods aren't gonna have BPA in them," LaPook said. "Go fresh whenever you can. Better to be safe than sorry I think is what people are saying if you're trying to avoid any kind of a danger. You can't avoid danger in your own society, right?"