BPA: What You Need to Know
At this point, most everyone has heard of BPA, however must of us remain unsure or confused about what it is, how it is used and the associated risks. BPA, more formally known as bisphenol-A, is a synthetic compound used in the manufacturing of some plastics and resins. It has been widely used in commercial products, including cans and bottles used to hold shelf-stable food goods, since the 1960s. Most of this time, the potential dangers of BPA were widely unknown, and its use came with assurances from safety agencies that the level of BPA found in products such as plastic water bottles, baby bottles, and epoxy lined aluminum cans posed no threat to human health and development. At some point, around thirty years ago, there was a movement to push for more research regarding the use of BPA in consumer products, and what we have learned about BPA, and the potential effects on our health, since then is alarming and concerning to say the least.
BPA is used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are the type of hard plastics used to make items such water bottles, plastic food storage containers, including the lids, and lotion bottles just to name a few. You can also find BPA is some plastic food covering films. The epoxy resins made with BPA are used to line the inside of food and soda cans to help prevent the aluminum ions from dissolving into the liquid or food inside the can, which can result in corrosion and affect the quality and taste of what is inside. The problem with this is that BPA can leach its way into your food and drink, and even your daily care products such as body wash, which are then absorbed through the skin. BPA use is so common that over ninety percent of people over the age of six have detectable levels of the chemical in their bodies. What is even more startling is that nine out of ten umbilical cord samples from newborn infants also contained detectable amounts of BPA. When you are looking at a chemical that we have lifelong exposure to, starting in the womb, it is important to look closely at how it might be affecting our long-term health and wellbeing.
While the FDA assures us that the level of BPA used in consumer products is safe, the possible health consequences of BPA exposure beg us to question this judgement. It was this type of push for safer regulations that resulted in the 2012 ban on the use of BPA in products designed for infants and small children, including baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups and the packaging of infant formula. BPA acts like an estrogen in the body and some researchers have linked its use to profound negative effects:
- BPA exposure in women can lead to fertility issues and decrease the total number of childbearing years. When exposed to BPA, some subjects showed less production of estradiol, a hormone that is vital for healthy reproductive development.
- Childhood exposure to BPA can result in premature reproductive development including early puberty.
- BPA exposure is bad for prostate health as it increases the size of the prostate and stimulates the growth of prostate cancer cells.
- BPA exposure has been shown to affect male fertility by diminishing healthy sperm count.
- BPA exposure has been linked to hyperactivity, aggressiveness and learning disabilities.
- BPA has been shown to potentially effect neurological development.
- The hormonal effects of BPA exposure can lead to obesity and metabolic disorders.
- BPA exposure can reduce lung capacity and make you more susceptible to respiratory issues.
- BPA exposure has been connected to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
- BPA poses a greater threat to pregnant women and their fetus. Exposure to BPA in utero at a fetus’s critical stage of development can affect neurological development, reproductive development and thyroid function.
- Exposure to BPA could affect the way your body utilizes and stores vitamin D.
- BPA exposure can affect glucose metabolism and become a trigger for the development of prediabetes.
That is a pretty long list of potential health consequences associated with BPA, and the truth is there is actually more that can be added. You might be asking yourself why the use of BPA is not banned, or at least more regulated than it already is. The reason for this is that a safe level of BPA in the human body has been determined, and therefore a safe level for use in consumer products has been determined. As long as manufacturers stay at or below those levels, it is thought that the potential consequences are negated or at the very least negligible. Perhaps, if the only exposure to BPA that you received was through that one can of soda, one can of beans or the container that you used to microwave your lunch, then BPA wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, the unfortunate truth is that BPA is everywhere, it is near impossible to avoid it, and the accumulation of repeated exposure is proving to be quite serious.
One solution to the problems that BPA presents is simply using an alternative. One alternative to BPA is BPS, or bisphenol-S. At first, this seemed like a valid option for replacing BPA in commercial products. The problem with this is that the more research that has gone into BPS, the more we have discovered that it really isn’t much better than the toxin that it is replacing. Early research on the use of BPS show that over eighty percent of us already have detectable levels in our bodies and that even trace amounts can disrupt the normal function of healthy cells, which presents a host of potential health consequences, including cancer.
What you can do to reduce the effects of BPA on your health, and the health of your loved ones, is to focus on the ways that you can eliminate exposure to BPA as much as possible.
- Make informed decisions. Visit the EWG’s database of over 16,000 products that contain BPA packaging. The complete list can be found at this site: http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/bpa_bombshell_industry_database
- Reduce your exposure by looking for products that make the claim of being BPA free. This is especially important for products that you use regularly and items that get reused, such as reusable water bottles and food storage containers. Of course, all OZNaturals products are packaged in BPA-free containers.
- Never reuse plastic containers such as margarine tubs to store or reheat food in.
- Choose stainless steel or glass instead of plastic whenever possible.
- Avoid heating items that you know contain BPA. This includes placing them in the dishwasher or microwave, as heat can cause the particle of BPA to release.
- Kick the daily soda habit and opt for infused water or ice tea instead.
- Eat as much fresh produce as possible. If it doesn’t come in container, it can’t contain BPA.
- If fresh produce is not a desirable option, opt for frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned.
- Look at the recycling numbers on plastic packages. Choose plastics that are designated with a #1, #2 or #4 since these are BPA-free. Avoid packages marked with a #7 or #3 since these types of plastic might contain BPA.
- Choose wooden toys instead of plastic for the little ones in your life.
- It might be time to reconsider the convenience that comes with pod style coffee makers. The little tubs that hold the perfect portion of coffee can contain BPA, which when combined with the heat required to brew your coffee most certainly guarantees that you are getting a dose of BPA along with your morning caffeine jolt. Try going artisan and get a French press or use the trendy pour over method instead.
- Look at all the ways that you can reduce exposure to plastics in your home. Even small steps like drinking your water from a glass cup rather than a disposable water bottle add up fast when it comes to reducing your BPA exposure.
- Pay extra attention to your BPA exposure if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, since BPA exposure can pass through the placenta and breastmilk.
- Avoid touching thermal receipt paper as much as possible, as this is one of many lesser known, but common sources of BPA exposure.
BPA is not only a potential contaminant in our food sources, but it has also found its way into being an environmental pollutant as well. Because of this, it is impossible to avoid exposure to BPA altogether. The best approach to protecting yourself and your loved ones from BPA is to simply be informed, make the best choices possible and make change where you can. You cannot control every source of BPA. However, you can reduce your own exposure to the point that BPA is no longer a concern, and in doing so, you will reduce the environmental load of BPA as well. Being informed makes you a powerful consumer, and successful companies know that the powerful consumer is the one that they need to listen to. It all starts with small actions today for a healthier tomorrow.