Many of you may be aware of the dangers of BPA, or bisphenol-A, a chemical found in the lining of most canned food products and in #7 plastics. But a new interview, published by Mother Earth News, with BPA researcher Frederick vom Saal of the Univeristy of Missouri’s Endocrine Disruptor Group brings into sharp focus the dangers of this chemical, as well as U.S. corporations’ and government regulators’ lack of response to those dangers.
BPA is a potent estrogen mimicker, and it leaches readily into food and liquids stored, served or heated in containers that contain it. BPA is derived from petroleum, and its hormone-mimicking qualities make it incredibly reactive and dangerous in the human body. It causes cancer and is linked to obesity, heart disease, immune dysfunction, damage to every part of the reproductive system, ovarian cysts, breast cancer, low sperm counts, prostate cancer and abnormalities of the urethra. It’s thought that the ubiquity of the chemical, and in particular children and babies’ high level of exposure, is linked to the increase in early puberty in girls and in reproductive abnormalities. It may also be linked to ADHD, some learning disabilities and social behavior disruption.
If you need further evidence of the danger of this chemical, consider that Canada, the European Union and China, along with California and nine other states, have all banned its use, at least in children’s products. In January 2010, the FDA stated it had concerns about BPA’s effect on infants’ and children’s health, but it hasn’t banned the chemical (although it does support “reasonable steps to reduce exposure of infants to BPA in the food supply”). Although BPA is found in thousands of common household products, the good news is that it’s not highly bioaccumulative, meaning if we reduce our immediate exposure, the level of the chemical in our bodies drops rapidly. To keep BPA out of your body and your children’s bodies, follow these steps. To urge your state’s lawmakers to ban BPA from children’s products, sign the petition here.
1. Avoid canned foods and beverages. This can be a difficult one, but it’s very likely your best tactic to reduce the amount of BPA you ingest. BPA is used in can liners to prevent foods from eroding the metal in the cans, and it leaches into the foods inside the cans. A 2009 Consumer Reports study tested canned products from 19 name-brand foods for BPA levels. It found the highest levels in Del Monte green beans, Progesso vegetable soup and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. Organic products don’t necessarily have less BPA than nonorganic. Even some foods in cans labeled “BPA-free” contained low levels of BPA. Eden Organic is one of few brands producing canned beans and other products in BPA-free cans (although the Consumer Reports study did find a very low level of BPA in Eden’s “BPA-free” Baked Beans–1 part per billion as opposed to 55 to 102 part per billion in the Campbell’s chicken soup). To be sure you’re BPA-free, choose dried beans over canned and soups and tomato products packaged in glass jars. Also avoid canned beverages such as soda. Nearly all soda cans are lined with BPA.
2. Do not feed babies infant formula from cans and do not use #7 plastic bottles and sippy cups. BPA has the worst effects on babies and children whose reproductive systems are developing. As in other canned foods, canned baby formula contains high levels of BPA that leaches into the formula from its plastic liner. If you use formula, choose dried formula instead. When it comes to baby bottles and children’s cups, polycarbonate, labeled with the #7 recycling code, is the worst offender. Polycarbonate is a hard plastic, often used in plastic water bottles, baby bottles and children’s sippy cups. Klean Kanteen offers stainless steel baby bottles and sippy cups that are BPA-, phthalate- and toxin-free. Evenflo and Weego Baby, among others, offer BPA-free glass baby bottles. For a larger list of options for baby bottles, toddler cups, breast-milk storage containers and children’s food-storage containers, check out the SafeMama BPA-free cheat sheet. (Note: Even plastics labeled BPA-free can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals.)
3. Do not store food or beverages in #7 plastic containers. Polycarbonate plastic food storage containers and water bottles for adults also leach BPA, particularly when they are heated or scratched. As a general rule, never microwave food in a plastic container of any sort. Avoid plastic water bottles such as Nalgene. Also avoid aluminum bottles, which are frequently lined with BPA. Opt instead for stainless steel bottles such as those from Klean Kanteen or EcoVessel. Although they came under fire a few years ago for using BPA liners, SIGG aluminum bottles now use a BPA-free liner. For food storage, choose glass or stainless steel to rid your kitchen of BPA.