Are the BPA-Free Alternatives Safe?

Recent human studies indicate that exposure to the plastics chemical BPA may be associated with infertility, miscarriage, premature delivery, reduced male sexual function, polycystic ovaries, altered thyroid and immune function, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Yet, “[a]s recently as March 2012, FDA stated that low levels of BPA in food are considered safe.” However, just months later, to its credit, the agency banned the use of BPA plastics in baby bottles and sippy cups. Regulators standing up to industry? Maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical! But, wait. The ban was at the behest of the plastics industry. It had already stopped using BPA in baby bottles so it was their idea to ban it.

The industry had switched from BPA to similar compounds like BPF and BPS. So, our diets now contain everything from BPA to BPZ, and the majority of us have these new chemicals in our bodies as well. Are they any safer?

As I discuss in my video below, based on the similarities of their chemical structures, they are all predicted to affect testosterone production and estrogen receptor activity, as you can see at 1:40 in my video. However, they were only recently put to the test.

We’ve known BPA significantly suppresses testosterone production, and, from “the first report describing BPS and BPF adverse effects on physiologic function in humans,” we know those compounds do, too. Well, kind of. The experiments were performed on the testicles of aborted human fetuses. But, the bottom line is that BPS and BPF seem to have “antiandrogenic [anti-male hormone] effects that are similar to those of BPA.” So when you’re assured you shouldn’t worry because your sales slip is BPA-free, the thermal paper may just contain BPS instead. What’s more, BPS receipts may contain up to 40 percent more BPS than they would have contained BPA. So BPA-free could be even worse. In fact, all BPA-replacement products tested to date released “chemicals having reliably detectable EA,” estrogenic activity.

This includes Tritan, which is specifically marketed as being estrogen-activity-free. However, researchers dripped an extract of Tritan on human breast cancer cells in a petri dish, and it accelerated their growth. This estrogenic effect was successfully abolished by an estrogen blocker, reinforcing it was an estrogen effect. Now, the accelerated growth of the cancer cells from the Tritan extract occurred after the plastic was exposed to the stressed state of simulated sunlight. Only one out of three Tritan products showed estrogen activity in an unstressed state, for instance when they weren’t exposed to microwaving, heat, or UV rays. “Because there would be no value in trading one health hazard for another, we should urgently focus on the human health risk assessment of BPA substitutes.”

In the meanwhile, there are steps we can take to limit our exposure. We can reduce our use of polycarbonate plastics, which are usually labeled with recycle codes three or seven, and we can opt for fresh and frozen foods over canned goods, especially when it comes to tuna and condensed soups. Canned fruit consumption doesn’t seem to matter, but weekly canned vegetable consumption has been associated with increased BPA exposure. If you do use plastics, don’t microwave them, put them in the dishwasher, leave them in the sun or a hot car, or use once they’re scratched. But using glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers is probably best.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

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55 comments

Sam E M
Sam E M28 days ago

We already use mostly glass, ceramic and stainless steel instead of plastic in our house, and we do our best not to buy anything new made of plastic, but it's very hard to completely avoid it.

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Daniel N
Daniel N28 days ago

thanks for posting

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Nicky Heindryckx

When reading articles like the above one, I feel I need to follow a chemistry course before I can be totally sure that what I buy in the shop is 100 % safe for my family. There are so many different types of plastic that an average man or woman really does not know it anymore. This article is about the packing material of foods in different types of plastic. Then I wonder if I can give my small babies or toddlers any plastic toys?? They put everything in their mouth, and suck or bite on it. I can understand that glass, ceramic and stainless steel are the best. But I don't see me use glass lunch boxes for my children. Too dangerous to cut their fingers off and very small pieces to enter their sandwiches, too expensive so only leaves me the stainless steel. Tell me where I can find small bottles of 0,25 liters and lunch boxes in this material!! I know that before plastic was so damned popular, our mothers and grandmothers could easily buy aluminum bottles and our sandwiches were just wrapped in brown paper or paper bags. I can not imagine finding 1 store where I could buy these.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan H29 days ago

thanks

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Dennis H
Dennis Habout a month ago

Thanks

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Lorraine A
Lorraine Andersenabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Habout a month ago

thanks

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Leo C
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for posting!

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Diane E
Diane Eabout a month ago

Thanks. Research needed into better alternatives.

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