Hope you are well and looking forward to a relaxing weekend! Today’s article is intended to spread awareness about the harmful effects of BPA. If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen the link to a news article I shared a few days ago about the latest debate on BPA. The varying opinions and studies on the estrogen-like chemical can be confusing, and my goal today is to help shed some light as to why BPA should be avoided at all costs.
Definition and Application
First, let’s start with a simple definition of bisphenol-A, better known as BPA: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics have many applications including use in some food and drink packaging, e.g., water and infant bottles, compact discs, impact-resistant safety equipment (helmets), eyewear, and medical devices. Epoxy resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes (!). It has even been found in certain cash register paper receipts. Some dental sealants and composites may also contribute to BPA exposure (source).
Result of Exposure
BPA has been widely studied over the past 13 years, concluding a number of different results. The plastic and canning industry will have us believe that there is no harm in the amounts exposed to us in the use of plastic and metal food packaging (hey, having the population aware of it’s toxicity is bad for business!). However, the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older (source).
- Another report cites 60 animal and human studies, linking prenatal BPA exposure to an increased risk of a variety of health problems, from breast cancer and prostate cancer to decreased fertility, early puberty, neurological problems (hyperactivity, 4.2 million children in the U.S.) and immune system changes.
- An NYU School of Medicine study suggests, although not proven with certainty, that BPA can be linked to childhood obesity. 22% of teens with the highest levels of BPA in their blood were obese, as compared to 10% of the lowest levels (source).
- In 2009, the Endocrine Society — a group of doctors and researchers specializing in the hormonal system — called hormone-disrupting chemicals such as BPA a “significant concern for public health,” possibly causing infertility, cancer and malformations (source).
- The result exposure is especially a cause for concern in pregnant women. A developing fetus is especially vulnerable during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, says Sharima Rasanayagam, Director of Science at the Breast Cancer Fund. “Everything is being developed, the building blocks are being laid down for future health”. The Breast Cancer Fund report notes that ten studies have found BPA in fetal tissue, including umbilical cord blood, as well as in amniotic fluid (source).
- Exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility, and could contribute to childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity. Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a developmental biologist at the University of Missouri, says BPA is a potential endocrine disrupter by mimicking naturally occurring estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that is part of the endocrine system that controls the development of the brain, the reproductive system, and many other systems in a developing fetus. (Ruth Winter, M.S., 2009, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, 7th edition)
- In a separate action, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine also have released a joint report on the broader issue of prenatal exposure to toxins, from BPA to pesticides and other chemicals. That September report notes that in utero exposure to environmental chemicals has been linked to miscarriage and stillbirth, impaired fetal growth and low birth weight, preterm birth, childhood cancers, birth defects, intellectual impairment and thyroid problems. (source)
How to avoid BPA
- Avoid canned food and drink. BPA can leach into canned food at levels reaching two hundred times the “acceptable” amount. Substitutes include: fresh or frozen vegetables, tetra packed broths, tomatoes, soups, and beans/legumes, or glass jarred foods such as tomatoes, baby food, juice, and other preserved vegetables such as capers, carrots, pearled onions, etc. Note: some glass container’s metal lids contain BPA.
- Or, buy BPA-free canned foods when substitutes are not available. Brands include: Eden Organics, Bionature, Vital Choice (although not labeled), Wild Planet, Oregon’s Choice, Eco Fish, some Trader Joe’s products (canned corn, canned beans, canned fish, canned poultry, and canned beef.. NOT soups and chilis), and Edward & Son’s Native Forest and Native Factor (this is the coconut milk I buy!). Note, some of these companies do not label their products, but you can call their customer service lines and they will confirm it for you. Do your research, folks!
- Avoid BPA plastics. Check the bottom of plastics for “PC” recycling label #7, this indicates that the plastic is a polycarbonate (note that not all polycarbonates contain BPA, but all BPA containing plastics are polycarbonate, therefore the #7 symbol is still relevant, and best to avoid altogether if unsure).
- Although I recommend avoiding plastics as much as possible, the safer plastics are marked on the bottom with recycling labels #1, #2, and #4. As always, seek out glass versions or plastics labeled BPA-free.
- Avoid metal water bottles with plastic coating. Buy stainless steel water bottles that do not have plastic liners.
- Avoid using old and/or scratched water bottles, and food storage containers.
- Although I recommend avoiding the microwave altogether, avoid microwaving plastics (as BPA can be easily leached by heat exposure).
- Use only BPA-free plastic wrap, the Saran brand claims to be BPA-free.
- Avoid drinking hot water from the faucet. Old water pipes contain BPA to extend the life of the pipes.. BPA is easily leached through heat, so try to heat your water on the stove top or in an electric kettle.
- Although studies indicate that the main exposure risk in through ingestion, avoid BPA metals and plastics (childrens toys) for other uses as much as possible as well. 27% of the BPA on your skin moves into your bloodstream in about two hours. Because BPA is used to help the ink appear on thermal paper, wash your hands after handling receipts, baggage destination tags, airplane boarding passes, bus and train tickets, lottery tickets, newspapers (the ink), recycled paper products such as pizza boxes. Chances are you touch these items more frequently than you think.
There you have it, friends! Hope that this article has been informative and helpful to you. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to comment below, or send me an email directly.