PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Like many moms, Laura Lieb worries about how chemicals in cans and plastics could affect her 3-year-old. She takes steps to avoid one in particular – bisphenol a, also known as BPA.

“We’ve tried to make sure that the container this is in is BPA free,” she says.

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Though banned from baby bottles and sippy cups, BPA is found in some plastic food containers and in the lining of many canned foods.

Researchers at Columbia University say exposure to this chemical may increase a child’s risk of asthma.

“Exposure to BPA in early childhood in ages 3, 5, and 7 were associated with increased odds of wheeze and asthma at school age between 5 and 12,” says Dr. Kathleen Donohue of Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

“The incidence of asthma in this country is rising, So there’s got to be some factors out there that we’re not looking at,” says Dr. Michael Palumbo of Allergy & Clinical Immunology Associates in the South Hills.

Researchers measured the BPA levels of more than 500 pregnant women and then followed their kids. By age 12, a third had asthma.

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This type of study can’t prove BPA is the cause, and more research will have to be done.

“Taking it out to a grander scale nationwide, using different size, you know, rural and urban areas might also help,” says Dr. Palumbo.

There are ways to reduce exposure to BPA. Experts say choose fresh vegetables and fruits when possible, and use glass containers, especially in the microwave.

Laura says she tries her best to avoid plastics.

“I switched from using a water bottle that was disposable to one that was BPA free or one made of stainless steel,” she says.

She also tries to buy fresh and cook from scratch whenever she can.

More than 90 percent of kids in this study had detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, which is in line with previous studies.

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