The federal Food and Drug Administration barred Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and children’s cups in June 2012 but it is still prevalent in food packaging and in our bodies. In fact, BPA is found in detectable levels in 93% of Americans over the age of six according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this article we’ll cover what it is, where to find it, and easy ways to avoid it.
So, what the heck is BPA?…
It was first synthesized in 1891 and has become a key building block of plastics from polycarbonate to polyester. In the U.S. alone, more than 2.3 billion pounds is manufactured annually.
How it gets in your body…
That number makes a lot of sense when you factor in that it’s found in common products most of us have in our homes like hard plastic water bottles, food containers, canned food and soda/beer cans. The BPA leaches from the plastic containers and linings of canned goods into the food inside and then we ingest it.
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 compared to when they ate fresh soup daily.
Higher temperatures such as those achieved by microwaving, using the dishwasher, or leaving plastic water bottles in a hot car can increase the rate of leaching by as much as 55%.
Why it’s dangerous…
You’ve probably noticed an increase in products labeled “BPA free” in recent years as more and more people become aware of the dangers. BPA is a known hormone disruptor, even in small amounts, due to its estrogen mimicking effects in the body.
BPA exposure has been linked to:
• Low sperm count
• Heart disease
• Changes in brain development
• Predisposition to breast and prostrate cancer
Is “BPA free” a safe alternative?
Good question. When scientists conducted lab tests on more than 20 top-brand baby bottles along with more than 450 plastic food and beverage-packages, virtually all leached chemicals that acted like the hormone estrogen, even though many were free of BPA. Minimizing your plastic exposure is really the best bet and it’s not as hard or expensive as it sounds.
How to decrease your exposure…
- Avoid canned foods when possible by substituting non-canned variations from the frozen/bulk section or in tetra-pak containers (the cardboard box)
- Look for canned food with BPA-free liners. There are several brands that have committed to BPA free liners such as: EcoFish, VitalChoice, Wild Planet, Eden Organic (beans only)
- Buy beverages like sodas or beer in glass
- Buy your tomatoes in glass jars or a tetra-pak (acidity increases BPA leaching)
Food Storage Ideas:
- Swap out your plastic food storage containers for glass ones and avoid food contact with plastic lids – you can get a starter set for just over $20
- Drink tap water or buy a reusable stainless steel/glass water bottle as opposed to plastic bottled water
- Avoid microwaving and dishwashing plastic containers
- Swap out plastic baby bottles/cups for glass or stainless varieties – common brands are Pura Stainless, Lifefactory, and EvenFlo but there are many more if you do a search.
Other ways to reduce exposure:
- Switch your plastic coffee-maker for a French press or ceramic drip
- Use real metal utensils instead of plastic – including those you cook with like spatulas and big spoons
- Avoid food packaging with recycle codes 3 or 7
- Say no to receipts when possible (many are coated with BPA)
- Instead of looking for BPA free, simply avoid plastics when you can help it (especially anything that touches your food)
The bottom line…
While it may not be possible to eliminate BPA from your life entirely, decreasing the amount that comes into contact with your food will decrease BPA in your body and family in a big way. BPA will exit your system pretty quickly (in hours or days). The trick is to quit letting it back in. You got this!