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