BPA: What It Is, Where It Is, What to Do
I am hesitant to tackle the topic of BPA, for a number of reasons. For one, a lot of people already seem to know all about BPA, and you can find lots of information about it online.
In addition, I’m no scientist; I learn more about BPA all the time, and trying to comprehend it all can make me feel like I’m back in high school science class (one of my least favorite experiences of all time).
But I think I would be remiss if we didn’t take the time to look at BPA here at Simple Organic. It’s important. If you know all about it, please chime in in the comments! I’m sure I will leave something out. If it’s news to you, then I hope it’s helpful.
First Things First: What Is BPA?
Stick with me here – this is the “science part.”
BPA stands for Bisphenol-A. It is an organic compound that is used primarily to make plastics, and it’s especially common in shatterproof plastics. It is valued for its binding properties. However, it is now clear that BPA has negative effects on the human endocrine system. It can mimic human hormones (it is known as an endrocrine disruptor), and since hormones control how our bodies function, that’s a big deal.
Research has shown that exposure to BPA can affect brain development, behavior, prostate glands, mammary glands, thyroid function, cancer risk, heart disease, diabetes, birth defects, and even obesity. The risks are greatest while in the womb and as infants and young children, but early exposure has long-term ramifications, and there is still a risk for older children and adults, as well.
It’s important to understand that this has become the consensus of mainstream scientists and even government organizations; it is not just a loony idea spouted by crazy hippie folks who don’t shave and wear hemp. (wink)
Photo by fdecomite
Where Do We Find BPA?
The list is long, and some of its contents may surprise you. BPA can potentially be found in the following places:
- Baby bottles
- Sippy cups
- Infant liquid formula
- Plastic toys
- Water bottles
- Canned soft drinks (in the lining)
- Bottled soft drinks
- Plastic food storage containers
- Plastic blender pitchers and food processor bowls
- Canned foods (again, in the lining of the can)
- Plastic sports equipment
- Dental sealants
- Dental fillings
- Eyeglass lenses and frames
- CDs and DVDs
- Receipts printed on thermal paper (most receipts)
Photo by Alexander De Luca
A few of these items aren’t designed to go into our mouths, or to contain foods that will go into our mouths, so perhaps the risk there is negligible. However, as any parent of a teething baby will tell you, you just never know what might get chewed on! So, with BPA’s overwhelming presence in our lives today, what can we do to avoid it?
How to Avoid BPA
First, the bad news: until BPA is banned, you probably can’t avoid it completely. It is simply too pervasive in our culture.
However, there are many steps we can take to reduce our exposure to BPA – and like I always say, every little bit helps.
Here are ten ideas.
- Most brands of baby bottles and pacifiers now come in BPA-free options. Glass bottles are also an option.
- Don’t use liquid infant formula – if using formula, use the powdered form and mix it yourself. BPA is also found in powdered formula cans, but in much lower amounts.
- Look for BPA-free plastic sippy cups. Another alternative is stainless steel.
- Don’t give your children plastic toys unless they specifically say they are BPA-free. (Ideally, they would also say phthalate-free, too.) This can be hard, especially at gift-giving time. Try to find a gentle way to share your concerns with those who love your children.
- Stop buying plastic water bottles. If you buy a reusable water bottle, look for BPA-free water bottles or better yet, stainless steel.
- Don’t drink soft drinks.
- Replace your plastic food storage containers with glass or stainless steel. If you have glass containers with plastic lids, try not to fill the containers so full that the lid would press against the food. This is especially important with acidic foods, such as tomato sauce. Acids will cause more BPA to leach into the foods than normal. Never put acidic foods into plastic.
- Try to reduce the amount of canned foods you purchase. Soaking and cooking dry beans in a crock pot is hardly any more difficult than preparing canned beans, and it’s much cheaper. Buy fresh veggies, make your own soups, and especially try to reduce the amount of canned tomato products you purchase. Again – tomatoes are acidic, so they will absorb more BPA. Look for tomato products in glass jars, or learn to can your own. (This will be the most challenging for us; we buy a lot of canned tomatoes right now, but one of my goals this summer is learning to can.)
- Buy less food in plastic containers, especially for babies. Plastic pre-packaged baby food is convenient but the risks aren’t worth it.
- Never heat plastic. Don’t put it in the microwave or the dishwasher, even on the top rack. Heat causes the BPA to leach more aggressively.
Photo by Kyle LeBoeuf
The Future of BPA
Canada banned BPA in baby bottles in April 2008. Denmark enacted a similar ban in 2010, and many other European countries are in the process, as well.
In the United States, many retailers and brands in the States have voluntarily recalled their products that contain BPA. In addition, there has been some government action.
• March 2009: Suffolk County, NY, banned BPA in baby beverage containers.
• May 2009: Minnesota and the City of Chicago banned baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA.
• June 2009: Connecticut banned BPA from any reusable food or drink container, as well as infant formula and baby food containers.
• January 2010: The FDA announced there was “some concern” about BPA and that “reasonable steps” should be taken to limit exposure, and the US Dept of Health published information for parents about how to reduce children’s exposure to BPA.
• Many other states have also taken action and/or have bills pending, including Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
• Both the U.S. House and Senate have bills pending to limit BPA.
How do you feel about this information? Did you know BPA was so potentially harmful and yet so pervasive? What steps has your family taken to reduce your exposure?
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