BPA (bisphenol A)
“More than 130 studies have linked BPA (bisphenol A) to breast cancer, obesity, and other disorders,” concludes a report from President Obama’s 2010 Cancer Panel.
Because BPA is a chemical compound that is practically inescapable in modern American life. It is used in virtually every plastic container, plastic bottles, and coffee cup lids where it is known to break down and contaminate the liquid contents. It is sprayed inside of the vast majority of our country’s canned goods, and has routinely been detected in staggering levels in the food it is supposed to be protecting. Cash register and credit card receipts are covered in BPA which give them the slippery feel. In fact, 92% of the food and drinks in the U.S. that come in plastic or metal packaging contain BPA. If you eat ANY prepared foods, even rice and beans that come in plastic bags, you are being exposed.
Why are they bad? BPA’s mess with your hormones! Even small amounts of BPA can act as “endocrine disruptors,” altering your body chemistry in alarming ways.
“Hundreds of independent peer-reviewed scientific studies have found harm from low doses of BPA,” Laura Vandenberg, a BPA researcher at Tufts University said in a recent statement.
The problem is that they are everywhere – you can run but you can’t hide from BPA’s. But it can be removed from our society. Japan quietly stopped using BPA in the 90’s. Canada has banned it from infant toys and bottles, as have a handful of U.S. states. Senator Diane Feinstein has now proposed a much heftier ban of BPA that extends to all food and drink containers used in America but don’t expect the chemical companies, who profit extensively from its use to quietly surrender.
“I think the outlook is that it’s going to be a struggle,” Feinstein said of the prospects for passage of the ban. “There’s no question about it. There are powerful interests that don’t want us to pass this bill.”
What to do until a ban will someday be enacted? Here are a few suggestions adapted from Lisa Farino, a writer for MSN Health & Fitness:
Limit canned foods & beverages. The epoxy liners of metal food and beverage cans most likely contain BPA. Vom Saal especially recommends avoiding canned foods that are acidic (tomatoes, tomato-based soups, citrus products, and acidic beverages like soda) and canned alcoholic beverages, since acids and alcohols can exacerbate the leaching of BPA.
The good news: Many foods and beverages can be purchased in glass containers (olive oil, and tomato paste) or frozen (like vegetables).
Don’t store foods in plastic. Glass food storage containers are inert and there are plenty of wonderful Pyrex containers on the market. Just be sure to wash the lids, which are made of plastic, by hand.
Filter your drinking and cooking water. Since detectable levels of BPA have been found in the water, vom Saal recommends removing it using a reverse osmosis and carbon filter, which generally can be found for less than $200. “In the long run, it’s cheaper than buying bottled water, which isn’t tested for BPA,” he says. If you buy bottled water, you are defeating the purpose if you store it in a plastic container. We have BPA-free plastic water bottles at our office. I believe I ordered them off of www.amazon.com.
Filter your shower and tub water. According to vom Saal, the relatively small BPA molecules can easily be absorbed through the skin. BPA can be removed from the water by adding ceramic filters to showerheads and tubs. Just be sure to change them regularly or they just dump contaminates.
Don’t transport beverages in plastic mugs. Instead, opt for an unlined stainless steel travel mugs or glass mugs/containers. This is especially important when transporting hot beverages, like coffee or tea.
Limit use of hard plastic water bottles. Those colorful light-weight plastic bottles may be great for hiking, but unfortunately, they are made of polycarbonate plastic. For everyday use when a little extra weight isn’t an issue, choose a stainless steel water bottle, and make sure it’s unlined—some metal water bottles contain a plastic liner that may contain BPA. Again, use stainless steel or glass.
Minimize hard plastics in the kitchen. Hard plastic stirring spoons, pancake flippers, blenders, measuring cups, and colanders regularly come into contact with both food and heat. Fortunately, all of these can easily be replaced with wooden, metal, or glass alternatives.
Skip the water cooler. Those hard plastic five-gallon jugs that many companies use to provide their employees and customers with “pure” water are usually made of BPA-containing polycarbonate. Opt for tap water instead.
If You Must Use Plastic
- Avoid using plastic storage containers for anything that contains acid ingredients, like tomatoes or citrus products.
- Avoid putting any warm beverages or citrus products in plastic mugs or travel bottles.
- Wait for foods to cool to room temperature before placing in plastic storage containers.
- Transfer foods to ceramic or glass before placing in the microwave. Microwaving will break down the plastic, causing it to release BPA into the food.
- Wash all plastic containers by hand. The harsher detergents and hotter temperature in the dishwasher will cause the plastic to break down more quickly.
- Throw away any plastic food storage containers that are showing signs of age. If the plastic looks hazy or warped, feels “sticky,” or has any visible lines or cracks, it is beginning to break down and could be releasing even more BPA.
- Choose plastics that have the recycling number 2 and 5. These are made out of far less reactive polypropylene and polyethylene.
Especially For Kids
Choose BPA-Free Baby Bottles. There are several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles. First, there’s the old-fashioned, inert glass baby bottle. If you prefer a plastic alternative, check out Born-Free’s new line of BPA-free plastic baby bottles.
As with any plastics, you should still avoid harsh detergents, dishwashers, and microwaves.
Choose BPA-Free Sippy Cups. Stainless steel sippy cups, like those by Klean Kanteen, are a great alternative to polycarbonate plastic sippy cups. Klean Kanteen also offers a BPA-free sippy-cup top adapter.
If you prefer a smaller, lighter-weight, totally plastic sippy cup, check out Born Free’s line of colorful, BPA-free sippy cups.
Again, it’s still wise to avoid exposing plastics to microwaves, harsh detergents, and dishwashers.
Limit Plastic Toys. Unfortunately, polycarbonate plastics are used to make toys, which young kids are so known for chewing on. Since chewing can break down the plastic and release BPA into a toddler’s mouth, minimizing plastic toys during the chewing stage is a good idea.
Especially for Pregnant Women
Here’s one more reason to keep taking that folic acid. Not only does it help prevent birth defects, it may also help protect a developing fetus from the effects of the BPA you’ll inevitably consume even if you take steps to reduce exposure. In pregnant mice, nutritional supplementation with folic acid has shown to protect fetuses against maternal BPA exposure.