What is BPA?
In recent years, many studies have shown that significant levels of toxic substances can leach from the every day items used in our homes and workplaces. We are now into the fourth generation of people exposed to toxic chemicals from before conception through to adulthood, and statistics tell us that we are under siege. Children born today face a greater chance of developing at least one or more of the following health conditions – ADD/ADHD, Autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and infertility – which have been linked with pre- and post-natal exposure to toxic chemicals. This article will take a closer look at one toxic chemical found in your homes – BPA.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used to make two common synthetics:
- Polycarbonate plastic: a clear, rigid, shatter-resistant plastic found in a wide variety of consumer products (ie food and drink containers, CDs, DVDs, water bottles, drinking glasses, kitchen appliances and utensils, eyeglass lenses, office water coolers, hockey helmet visors, medical supplies, cell phones, computers, toys and car headlights).
- Epoxy resins: used in industrial adhesives and high-performance coatings. They are used as adhesives in sporting equipment, airplanes and cars. They are also found in dental filling materials, protective coatings around wire and piping and line the interior of every tin can found in every home and grocery store.
- Additional sources of BPA include “carbonless” paper – the white, glossy, coated paper that most cash register receipts are printed on; newspaper ink; and since newspapers are used in making recycled paper, levels of BPA in recycled paper is extremely high (ie pizza boxes made from recycled paper).
2. What are the health risks of BPA?
- BPA is a synthetic estrogen that is disruptive to our endocrine system. It has been linked to a wide variety of health conditions, including infertility, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioral changes in children, resistance to chemotherapy treatments and breast, prostate and reproductive system cancers.
3. BPA reaches the developing fetus
- Surveys by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have found BPA in nearly every person over the age of 6. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected BPA in 90% of cord blood samples. Most of this contamination is believed to come from food packaging. BPA molecules leach into food and beverages from plastic food containers and the epoxy linings of metal cans.
- In 2007, the Canadian government was the first to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups due to pressure from consumers and environmental groups. While this was a big step forward, the government still allows BPA in canned foods, store and bank receipts and dental glue. EWG advises consumers to limit their consumption of canned products or to use products made by companies that provide BPA-free lining, such as Eden Organics.
- In 2007, EWG found BPA in 53 of 97 canned foods tested. In 2011, tests of 78 popular canned foods found BPA in 90 percent of products. The following canned foods measure high in BPA: beans, green beans, green peas and chili. There are low concentrations of BPA in canned fruit and beverages.
- In 2011, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health determined that volunteers who ate a single serving of canned soup a day for five days had ten times the amount of BPA in their bodies as when they ate fresh soup daily. Campbell’s and other major canned food makers are seeking alternatives but have not yet switched to BPA-free cans.
4. How to limit your family’s exposure to BPA
Completely eliminating contact with BPA is virtually impossible, but you can reduce your family’s exposure to this chemical by making the changes below.
- Use fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Alternatively select products that are packaged in glass or cardboard containers or that have been frozen when fresh.
- BPA leaches from containers into the contents and we end up consuming it. Containers do not need to be heated for this to occur. Switch to glass or stainless steel containers where possible.
- With respect to baby formula, choose powdered formula because the packaging contains less BPA. If your baby needs liquid formula, look for brands sold in non-plastic containers.
- Limit your consumption of canned food, particularly if you are pregnant.
- Look for canned food labeled as BPA-free or buy food packed in glass jars or waxed cardboard cartons. A few companies sell cans lined with non-BPA alternatives, such as Eden Organics.
- Store food in non-toxic alternatives such as glass or stainless steel.
- BPA leaches from containers into the contents and we end up consuming it. Containers do not need to be heated for this to occur. Switch to glass or stainless steel containers where possible. Do not microwave your leftovers in polycarbonate or plastic containers – use glass containers instead. Do not use a plastic lid cover in the microwave to prevent food from spraying. Better yet, don’t use a microwave
- Watch receipts – In 2010, EWG’s testing of retailer’s store receipts found that 40 percent were coated with BPA. The chemical can rub off on hands or food items. Some may be absorbed through the skin. Limit exposure by: 1) saying no to receipts when possible 2)Keep receipts in an envelope 3) Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with. 4) Wash your hands before preparing and eating food after handling receipts. 5) Do not recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues will contaminate recycled paper.
Environmental Working Group, 2013, https://www.ewg.org/key-issues/toxics/bpa#.W31c2pMzqHowww.ewg.org/bpa;
Bisphenol A, CAND patient handout, April 2008, www.cand.ca;
Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life affects our Health by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie