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BPA: Why & How To Avoid It

February 22, 2012

MARK DENICOLA FEBRUARY 21, 2012

Bisphenol A, more commonly referred to as BPA, is a compound regularly used in the production of plastics and cans. For several years now it has been well-documented that exposure to BPA in any amount is more than unhealthy to the human physicality. In fact, exposure to it has been linked to several problematic symptoms -impaired female reproductive elements, diabetes and prostrate diseases to name a few.  Despite this being the case, BPA can still be found in an abundance of canned foods, plastic food storage bags, water bottles and much more.

With the public becoming more and more aware of its effects, some organizations have taken the step or have at least flirted with the idea of removing BPA from their production processes. Until that transition fully kicks in, there are two things that you can do:

(1) Spread awareness of the truth to BPA (Either in direct communication, or by sharing articles such as this one)

(2) Look out for and make the choice to purchase BPA-Free products (they do exist)

Many food manufacturers, such as Eden Organic, pride themselves on selling popular canned foods -such as beans and chick peas -in cans that are BPA free (a fact that they blatantly publicize on the label of the item). Locating these products often doesn’t even require a natural or health food store, most of these products exist on your normal grocer’s shelf.

Now are these BPA-free products higher priced than their worse-to-consume alternative? At this point, yes. But that’s where taking the first step of spreading awareness becomes increasingly important. As much as I don’t like to play with the economic system, even basic economics tell you that as demand rises the price point of a product can shift. Meaning as more people make the choice to purchase BPA-free products, manufacturers such as Eden Organics won’t need to charge as much for their products to still be profitable. Mind you, the difference in price isn’t even that drastic!

BPA: What, When, Where, How, Why

Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been recently thrust into the public spotlight because of its possible links to serious health issues. As you may know, Bisphenol A is a building block of polycarbonate plastic and it is everywhere. In fact, the chemical can be found in a slew of consumer products ranging from sports equipment to compact disks to baby formula. Chances are, the chemical is a big part of your everyday life. But what exactly is BPA? What is it made of? Where did it come from and what does it do?

Below are the basics of the chemical. The facts. The what, when, where, how and why of BPA.

What?

What exactly is Bisphenol A?

Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a synthetic chemical compound. Many people are now aware that BPA is used to form a type of plastic. BPA is actually the key monomer used in the production of polycarbonate (PC) plastic and epoxy resin found in the lining of canned goods. PC plastic is hard and often shatter-proof. It is used in a wide range of consumer products such as water bottles, food storage containers, medical devices, CDs and baby bottles. Epoxy resin is found in the coating inside of almost all food and beverage cans.

What many people don’t know is that BPA mimics the hormone estrogen. It is what is known as an endocrine (or hormone) disrupting chemical. The endocrine system is the body’s finely tuned network of hormones and glands that control the development of the brain, the reproductive system and many other delicate systems.

Hormone disruptors (AKA endocrine disruptors), such as BPA, are substances that can interfere with the normal functioning of the hormone (or endocrine) system by duplicating, blocking or exaggerating hormonal responses. This can produce a wide range of adverse effects including reproductive, developmental and behavioral problems.

When?

When was BPA invented and when did it become what it is today?

BPA was thrust into the limelight in the recent years but the chemical has actually been around for about 120 years. BPA was first synthesized by chemists in 1891.

In the late 1930’s, scientists discovered that BPA acted as an artificial estrogen. The estrogen impostor would have been used as a pharmaceutical hormone but a more potent synthetic estrogen called DES was invented, precluding the use of BPA. In what should have been a warning signal to the potential toxicity of BPA, DES was taken off the market when it was linked to reproductive cancers in babies born to mothers taking the chemical. (Decades later, similar toxic properties are being linked to BPA.)

The use of BPA in plastics would not take place for another twenty years. In the 1950’s BPA began to appear in plastic consumer products throughout the world. For over 60 years, BPA has been used in the manufacturing of plastic without any law or regulation establishing its safety. In fact, although the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed by congress in 1976, it labeled BPA a “grandfather” chemical which means is was never evaluated and presumed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.

BPA is primarily found in polycarbonate plastics. It is also found in dental sealants and as an additive in other widely used consumer products. Some type seven (identified with the number seven within the recycling symbol) plastics, such as polycarbonate (which is identified with the letters PC near the recycling symbol) and epoxy resins are made with BPA. Polycarbonate plastics are used to make numerous consumer products including: baby bottles, sports equipment, compact disks, eye glass lenses, consumer electronics, medical equipment, and bicycle helmets. BPA-containing epoxy resin is used in almost every type of canned food in America. Some type three plastics (identified by the number three withing the recycling symbol) may also contain and leach BPA. 

There are seven classes of plastics. BPA is primarily found in polycarbonate plastics. It is also found in dental sealants and as an additive in other widely used consumer products. Some type seven (identified with the number seven within the recycling symbol) plastics, such as polycarbonate (which is identified with the letters PC near the recycling symbol) and epoxy resins are made with BPA. Polycarbonate plastics are used to make numerous consumer products including: baby bottles, sports equipment, compact disks, eye glass lenses, consumer electronics, medical equipment, and bicycle helmets. BPA-containing epoxy resin is used in almost every type of canned food in America. Some type three plastics (identified by the number three withing the recycling symbol) may also contain and leach BPA.

BPA has also been found in water, air and dust.

How?

How does BPA find its way into our bodies?

BPA has been known to leach from plastics and can linings into our food and beverages. Studies have proven that heat (by microwaving, sterilizing, boiling or washing) accelerates this leaching. Researchers have shown concern that infants and children exposed to the chemical through re-usable baby bottles and baby formula are at a much higher risk to the adverse effects of BPA.

Why?

Why is BPA a concern?

As previously mentioned, BPA is a hormone disruptor that can interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system. It is also a building block of PC plastic, which is used in a slew of products that hold or are meant to hold food and beverages. BPA leaches from these products into our food and drink, exposing the population to the toxic chemical. Studies have linked BPA exposures, at low-dose levels, with a wide range of adverse effects including reproductive, behavioral and developmental problems.

Despite its dangers, however, BPA has been used in the manufacturing of PC plastic and can linings for over 60 years. The use of these plastics and lining today is incredibly widespread.

BPA is one of the highest-volume chemicals produced worldwide. In 2003 alone, over 6 billion pounds of BPA were used to manufacture PC plastic products, resin lining cans, dental sealants, and polyvinyl chloride plastic products. The ester bond linking BPA molecules undergoes hydrolysis, resulting in the release of BPA into food, beverages, and the environment. Human exposure to BPA is so widespread that a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected BPA in more than 93 percent of Americans.

BPA-Free Tips and Alternatives for Parents

As more and more literature is proving BPA toxic to infants and children, more and more parents are stuck wondering how to protect their children from the ubiquitous chemical. Concern has turned to outrage as parents are becoming educated on the subject of BPA and its effects on vulnerable infants, babies, and children. Media interest, public concern and government involvement surrounds the BPA debate, thus forcing the companies to take notice.

According to the sources below, BPA-free infant formula, baby bottles and sippy cups are available (although we have not done independent research to support these claims at this time). We also include tips we have seen on how to avoid the potentially toxic chemical.

This page contains links to Internet sites owned by others. Our inclusion of these links and their content is not an endorsement of that content or site.

Avoid products marked with recycle codes of 3, 6 and 7.  Look for safe products with recycle codes of 1, 2, 4, or 5

Toxic Nation: Alternatives- BPA-Free Bottles

BPA-free Bottles & Sippy Cups

BPA-free Infant Formula


Z Recommends Z Report on BPA: Infant Formulas

  • Breast feeding your baby is the safest choice
  • Liquid formulas sold in plastic (non-BPA) jugs, look for recycle codes 1, 2, 4 or 5
  • “Ready-to-feed” (RTF) formula in quart-size plastic containers by Similac; and single-serving powder packets by Enfamil and Similac appear to be okay.

ALTERNATIVES

  • Alternatives to PC plastic baby bottles are those made of glass, polyethylene or polypropylene. (If the baby bottles are not labeled, and you have questions about the type of plastic used, call the company’s toll-free number listed on the package.)
  • If you must use a polycarbonate baby bottle, which we do not recommend, limit its exposure to heat by not micro waving, boiling, washing it with hot water or filling it with hot liquid. Instead, heat the liquid outside of the bottle and transfer it back to the bottle after it has cooled down enough to drink.
  • Throw out and replace old and scratched polycarbonate baby bottles and sippy cups.
  • The Z Report recommends if you are unsure about a product you can send a cell phone text message to the company.

    • While in the grocery store TEXT: “zrecs” plus a company name and/or a product category to 69866. You’ll get a text back (or occasionally two) providing the BPA status of products by that company and/or in that category. Current categories are bottles, sippys, pacifiers, and tableware.
    • Requirements: Every request sent to this service requires the first word to be “zrecs” to access their BPA database, and must be sent to the number 69866.

GENERAL

  • Reduce the use of canned foods.
  • A safer choice for containers that will hold hot food or liquids are glass, stainless steel or porcelain.

HELPFUL LINKS

Remember: With your food, use 4, 5, 1 and 2. All the rest aren’t good for you

Smart Plastics Guide: Healthier Food Uses of Plastics:

The Z Report on BPA In Children’s Feeding Products
, Third Edition

Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles:
Guide to Baby-Safe Bottles & Formula

Science Daily: Chemical In Plastic Bottles Raises Some Concern, According To New Report

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