BPA: A Silent Threat to Your Health
BPA is a dangerous chemical found widely in water supply pipes and in consumer products such as reusable water bottles, milk container and food can linings, dental filling and thermal cash register receipts. “It is dangerous,” explains Professor Frederick vom Saal, Curator’s Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, “because exposure to even small amounts before birth can increase chances that a child will be hyperactive, anxious or aggressive – that a child may have poor emotional control or be overly inhibited or suffer from attention deficit disorder. And there is some evidence to suggest that BPA may cause girls to develop masculine behaviors and boys to develop feminine behaviors.
“Furthermore,” Professor vom Saal reports, “BPA can cause changes that result in breast cancer at severeal critical periods of a woman’s life: when she is a developing fetus, during puberty, and during the first five months of pregnancy. In fact, fetal exposure at any level can set the stage for a daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter to develop breast cancer, a son to develop prostate cancer, and either sex to become diabetic.”
The power of this hidden chemical to threaten your health and damage your unborn child before birth is disturbing, and probably frightening. But you can avoid the harmful effects by understanding how BPA operates in your body, and by avoiding sources of BPA.
How BPA Interferes with Development
When sperm and egg come together, and then divide and become a fetus, chemicals called hormones are operating behind the scenes to direct each step and bring all phases into a harmonious whole. Fortunately our bodies are perfectly made to produce the required hormones in the right amounts and dispatch them where they’re needed at precisely the right time. The trouble with BPA is that once inside the body, it behaves like a hormone. It, too, can cross the placental barrier, and it, too, can give instructions to chromosomes that may override the instructions our own hormones deliver.
- A) Chromosomes (red) as they line up during early fetal development. B) BPA wreaks havoc. Copyright 2003 Cell Press All rights reserved.
How to Protect Yourself from BPA
No labeling required
You see that the chances for damage depend on when BPA enters the body, but whenever it enters the bloodstream it will have an effect. Yet the government does not require manufacturers of consumer items containing BPA to say so on the label. So the best protection is to keep BPA out of your body.
Along with most of Europe, the US has finally ruled that baby bottles, sippy cups and plastic toys for the under fives may not contain BPA. Consumer pressure groups are relieved yet remain angry, not only that the list isn’t longer but that BPA is not banned.
Eliminate Sources of BPA and BPS, the BPA substitute
Here’s a list of product groups that are ever-present sources of BPA or BPA substitute BPS, another plastic hardener on which there is scant research. We will keep you posted as information becomes available. Here too are references to some companies who have eliminated BPA from some – in a few cases all – of their products.
BPA resides in enough water pipes to suggest a faucet filter or other water filter in a glass or BPA-free jug. You can find spring water in glass bottles though it isn’t readily available and could prove expensive.
Unless labeled BPA free, reusable hard plastic water bottles contain BPA. BPA hardens plastic and leeches out into the contents. Don’t use them; choose a glass-lined water bottle instead.
A note on plastic water bottle. By and large flexible plastic bottles do not contain BPA but do contain another dangerous chemical, dioxin, that also mimics hormone action and can leech into contents. The advice about flexible plastic bottles used for water, soda, and juice is to dispose of them after the container is empty and do not ever reuse. However, my personal view is that since most consumer products are stored in warehouses where temperatures will vary, I don’t drink water, soda, juice or anything else sold in flexible plastic bottles and I don’t store liquids in plastic pitchers.
If you are unsure about whether a plastic bottle contains BPA, you may find this website useful. How to Tell If a Plastic Bottle Contains BPA http://www.ehow.com/how_6023359_tell-plastic-bottle-contains-bpa.html
Most canned food is packed in BPA-lined cans. The lining provides a barrier between the metal and the food. Manufacturers use more than six billion tons of the lining each year. Do not buy canned food unless you know the company does not use BPA to line their cans or the can is marked BPA free. Cook from fresh, and organic as often as you can afford it.
Food Storage Containers – Choose Glass
Plastic food storage containers almost always contain BPA. Unless the container package specifically says BPA Free, avoid buying them if you can. Unless you know that a container is BPA free, do not ever put hot food into a plastic container. Do not ever heat food in a plastic container in the microwave oven. Do not use plastic containers that say BPA free but announce other chemicals such as those designed to keep foods fresh longer. The chemicals may be effective in retarding spoilage but there is not yet any research to say they are safe.
Choose glass storage containers whenever possible. I save jars, but I’m mindful that glass jars may have screw tops lined with BPA. (Likewise glass baby bottles may have nipples containing harmful chemicals; take your time buying.)
The fact of glass doesn’t guarantee that the contents are free of harmful chemical, including other hormone mimics, but at least the bottle won’t leech BPA. And, food labeled organic, especially canned food, carries no promise whatever that the can is BPA free.
Some BPA-Free Consumer Products
- BPA-free Canned Food
- Eden Hill Beans
- Vital Choice Seafood
- Oregon’s Choice
- Wild Plant
Trader Joe’s but only these products come in BPA-free cans: canned corn, canned beans, canned fish, canned poultry, and canned beef. Other canned foods containing these items are not in BPA-free cans.
Some of Edward and Sons’ product lines such as Native Forest offer some BPA-free cans.
BPA-Free Food Storage
Ziplock bags, and Saran brand wrap and Gladware food storage containers are plastic but BPA free. When in doubt, buy glass food storage containers. Pyrex has been around for a long time.
BPA-Free Water Pitcher
Brita’s water jug is BPA-Free.
New BPA-free products appear regularly. Use the internet to search for BPA-free products. Here are two sites, among very many.
List of BPA-Free Products confirmed by About.com / the New York Times