I think it is safe to say that most, if not all, of us have heard various things about BPA. Over the past year or so, it has been all over the media, especially the Internet. But what do you really know about BPA? Sure, you know it is bad and you should avoid plastics with it, but do you know why it is bad? What exactly is BPA anyway? Is it only in plastic bottles and containers? Where else can it be found? I am going to answer some of these questions for you.
What is BPA and why is it bad?
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. BPA has been used for nearly 50 years and has been suspected of being hazardous since the 1930s. According to numerous studies from the Environmental Working Group “trace BPA exposure been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.” Put a little more simply, risks include prostate and breast cancer, higher rates of miscarriage, immune system dysfunction, testicular abnormalities in boys and puberty in girls younger than eight years old. The heated debate still goes on over BPA, but when it comes to my family I would rather be safe than sorry.
Which plastics should you avoid?
One of the big concerns with BPA is it leaching from plastic baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, food containers, etc. into beverages and foods. So how do you know which baby/child products are safe and which to avoid? Since this all started, many companies have started putting “BPA Free” logos on their products. Major bottle brands like Avent, Dr. Brown, Playtex, Medela and Gerber plus many more have BPA free plastic bottles. The best thing to do is research before you go shopping. A very informative site to visit is The ZRecs Guide. Here you can find BPA information on bottles, pacifiers, cups, tableware, utensils and so much more. If you are still unsure, you can always contact the manufacturer.
It is also a good idea to learn which types of plastics you should avoid. This will help when picking out anything from baby bottles to toys to plastic food storage containers. Plastics are labeled with a number between 1 through 7. Plastics labeled with the number 7 and a “PC” are made of polycarbonate and contain BPA. You also want to avoid number 3 (PVC-polyvinyl chloride) and number 6 (PS-polystyrene), not for BPA issues but other toxin concerns. PVC plastics contain phthalates and the styrene in polystyrene plastics is toxic to the brain and nervous system. For more detailed information on which plastics to avoid, check out this Smart Plastics Guide: Healthier Food Uses of Plastics.
Where else is BPA lurking?
With all the talk about BPA in our children’s products, you rarely hear anyone talk about how it is in almost all canned foods and beverages. But cans are made of metal, how is BPA in there? They are lined with an epoxy resin that contains BPA. This means canned veggies, soups, tuna, soft drinks and infant formula. Anything in a can really. In fact, we are in far more danger of BPA leaching into our food from these cans than we are from plastic bottles. And what canned good has the highest amount of BPA in it? Infant formula. According to the Environmental Working Group “the amount of BPA ingested by some bottle-fed infants exceeds the doses that caused serious adverse effects in animal studies.” Isn’t that lovely? Other top contaminated canned foods were chicken soups and raviolis.
The answer is not enough. It would be wonderful if BPA was banned completely, but I’m not holding my breath. In April of 2008, Canada became the first country to ban BPA from baby bottles. Sadly, the United States has yet to follow suit. In 2009, we started to make some slow progress. On March 2, a bill was introduced in California that would prohibit BPA in a bottle or cup for children 3 and under. On March 4, Suffolk County, New York voted to ban BPA-based plastic bottles and cups. Then on March 5 Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that 6 major companies (Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow) had volunteered to stop using BPA-based plastic in baby bottles made for the U.S. market. Blumenthal, said he will press for state legislation to ban BPA in infant formula cans and baby food containers. To find out how YOU can help support efforts to keep toxic chemicals out of our children, visit EWG’s Kid-Safe Chemical Act page.