I’ve been concerned about the industrial compound bisphenol A (BPA) ever since I first read about it, and have been chronically frustrated by its potential harm and prevalence in our environment–most specifically in our food, and hence, our bodies. More than 100 peer-reviewed studies have found BPA to be toxic at low doses. BPA is a synthetic estrogen and commonly used to strengthen plastic and line food cans. As Nicholas D. Kristof points out in an Op-Ed in The New York Times on Sunday, scientists have linked it, though not conclusively, to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike.
Anyway. It’s easy to slip into the (wishful) thinking that the FDA is protecting us from toxic threats like this, and that we probably, hopefully, aren’t getting enough of these chemicals to have much of an effect. But now comes Consumer Reports’ latest tests of canned foods including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans. The findings? Almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain some BPA. The canned organic foods they tested did not always have lower BPA levels than nonorganic brands of similar foods analyzed. And, this was crushing to me, they even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled “BPA-free.”
The site reports that a 165-pound adult eating one serving of canned green beans from the test sample, could ingest about 80 times more BPA than their experts’ recommended upper daily limit. Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones they found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA approaching levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies.
The FDA says it isn’t a threat, but body burden studies show that BPA was detected in 95 percent of the people included in one sampling–it’s obviously getting to us somehow. Perhaps most telling is that in Japan major manufacturers voluntarily changed their can linings in 1997 to cut or eliminate the use of BPA because of concerns about health effects. A 2003 Japanese study found that the levels of the chemical in subjects’ urine dropped by 50 percent after the change in cans was made. Time to kick the cans!
Next: Stop eating BPA, here’s how
How to limit you exposure to BPA
Canned foods are thought to be the predominate route of BPA exposure.
- Buy prepared foods in jars when possible–especially tomatoes and tomato sauce.
- Opt for fresh produce when you can, choose frozen produce over canned.
- Use dried beans instead of canned beans–here are some quick cooking tips!
All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of infant formula containers. Tests of liquid formulas by the FDA and EWG show that BPA leaches into the formula from all brands tested. Enfamil formula appears to have the highest concentrations of the 20 tests. The only solution here is to use alternatives to canned formula. If you have found a formula that is listed as BPA-free, please tell us about it in the comment field!
When possible it is best to avoid #7 plastics, especially for children’s food. Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA.
- Find baby bottles in glass versions, or those made from the safer plastics including polyamine, polypropylene and polyethylene.
- Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.
- Bottles used to pump and store expressed breast milk by the brand Medela are also labeled BPA-free.
- Many metal water bottles are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles that do not have a plastic liner.
- Read about plastic and food storage here.
For the full details of the report, visit Consumer Reports.org.