Bisphenol A - We Are Being Exposed to Harmful Levels

Bisphenol A (also called BPA) is back in the news yet again.

Listen to chemical manufacturers, and they'll still tell you that BPA is harmless. Would they lie to you? You bet they would.

Many studies are over the last 20 years have showed that BPA does indeed impact many different aspects of our health. And this chemical has toxic effects even at low doses.

But I have some good news.

As of early February, 2012, the FDA has finally caved in a little bit, saying it is now "taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply."

So what is Bisphenol A?

BPA is classified as an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can mimic your body's own hormones. It can also block your actual hormones and keep them from functioning properly.

Our bodies only make a tiny amount of hormones, so even low doses of BPA and other endocrine disruptors can dramatically affect our health.

Here are some of the effects of endocrine disruptors:

  • reduced fertility
  • increased miscarriages
  • birth defects
  • menstrual difficulties
  • early puberty
  • unbalanced hormone levels
  • behavior problems
  • hyperactivity
  • certain types of cancer
  • immune system impairment

How to reduce your exposure to BPA

Bisphenol A is found mostly in certain plastic bottles and canned foods, although it is also found in increasingly more items like toilet paper, pizza boxes, soda cans, dental sealants and cash register receipts.

The sad fact is that it is no longer possible to avoid BPA if you live in the U.S. Or many European countries. The best we can do is try to limit our exposure (especially when it comes to our children who are at increased risk from these kinds of chemicals).

For plastics:

Glass is best, but inconvenient. So check the recycling symbol on your bottles. These are safer plastics:

#2 HDPE High-Density Polyethylene
#4 LDPE Low-Density Polyethylene
#5 PP Polypropylene

#1 PETE (or PET) Polyethylene Terephthalate is only approved for one-time use. Don't reuse these.

Not safe? The #7 symbol, polycarbonates. These are the plastics that don't fit the other labels, so they are all lumped in to this big category. In effect, polycarbonate means "the other plastics."

Not all polycarbonates leach Bisphenol A, but manufacturers are not required to tell you if their plastics contain BPA. If you don't want to take chances, avoid them all. Especially since a lot of companies have shown that they can't be trusted on their word.

As for reusable water bottle choices – almost all are still made from polycarbonate. It took me a while to find a safe bottle to take to work. I ordered mine from Nalgene, but there are more and more choices now available.

For cans:

It's looking like cans are a bigger culprit than plastics for Bisphenol A exposure.

Environmental Working Group has stated, "BPA is at unsafe levels in one of every 10 servings of canned foods (11%) and one of every 3 cans of infant formula (33%)."

The best policy is to avoid eating a lot of canned foods, especially for your children. Buy fresh or frozen fruits and veggies instead of canned whenever possible.

It's maddening because companies that produce canned food could use an alternative to BPA. Most are still choosing not to though, as it would increase the cost per can by little over a penny.

Personally, for safer food, I do not mind paying an extra penny or two per can. Finally, a few companies are beginning to realize this, and the tide is changing. Slowly....

The brand I trust to actually be free of BPA is Eden Organic. Other companies have said they phased out BPA but turned up positive for the chemical when tested by third-party organizations. Maybe that's why they say they're BPA-free yet it doesn't state such on their cans. Hmmmm.

Eden Organic stopped using BPA in their can linings back in 1999. Read Eden Organic's story.

Important to note though is that any canned tomato products will still contain BPA, even from Eden Organic. That's because the FDA hasn't approved an alternative for highly acidic foods.

Eden's current solution is to package tomato products in glass containers. Unfortunately, though, the lids for these products still contain BPA. Better, but not perfect.

Two other companies, Pomi and Trader Joe's, have found an even better solution – ditch the cans and the glass. They use aseptic cartons (that are BPA-free) instead, and I'm quite pleased with them (I use the Pomi brand for my packaged tomato needs).

Fresh and frozen are still best of course.

One other point:

Cash register receipts happen to be a high source of exposure to Bisphenol A. If you work someplace where you handle receipts all day, it is a good idea to wear gloves for protection. For the rest of us, washing our hands after handling receipts are a good idea.

The grocery store Kroger has banned BPA from its register receipts, so it can be done. Hooray for Kroger for understanding their customers' concerns. Read more about Kroger's ban on BPA.

If you don't live by a Kroger, pressure your favorite grocery store to do the same!

Until the FDA acts more forcefully, consumer pressure is all we have.

- - Bisphenol A

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