BPA, or Bisphenol A, has been a component in many items that we use since the 1960’s. Generally found in plastics, there is some controversy regarding BPA. While some research groups insist that BPA poses no threat to our health and safety, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some concern. They are working toward reducing human exposure to BPA by finding less harmful components to use in its place, and as of March 2012, the FDA will continue to allow BPA to be used in the production of plastics and food containers while further research is completed.
What Is BPA?
Bisphenol A, or BPA as it is otherwise known, is a manufactured chemical that is used to create certain types of plastics and resins. Generally, BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin. BPA has been utilized since the 1960’s in the manufacturing of plastic containers and has gained notoriety for its possible health risks on people exposed to the chemical.
What Products Contain BPA?
The chemical BPA has existed in many hard plastic food containers and the inside linings of metal food jars and cans for years. Additionally, cash register paper that is used to print receipts may contain BPA. It can also be found in some dental sealants and fillings, eyeglasses, compact discs and DVDs.
Polycarbonate plastic containing BPA can be found in many commonly used items such as:
- Hard plastic food containers
- Water bottles
- Baby bottles
- Toddler cups
Epoxy resins containing BPA are used in:
- The lining of metal food cans
- Cans of baby formula
- Bottle tops
- Water supply piping
Why Is BPA Dangerous?
There is some controversy surrounding BPA and whether or not there is cause for worry. It is said that humans are exposed to BPA by eating and drinking the contents of containers containing BPA. Some studies suggest that humans who are exposed to BPA are at risk for developing certain health conditions.
These concerns are especially high for unborn babies developing in the womb, infants and young children because BPA can mimic estrogen, which can cause a change in development. Sadly, more information is needed to determine the true effects of BPA exposure. Many people are choosing to use BPA-free products for their children and for use in their homes.
Studies suggest a problematic link between the following areas and BPA:
- The brain
- Prostate Gland
- Breast Tissue
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Sensitivity to chemotherapy
In an initial study done by the FDA, BPA was deemed to have an adequate margin of safety for infants and adults when exposed to the chemical through contact with food. Several months later, some flaws were noted in the initial assessment causing inadequate results; this naturally was cause for concern. The FDA then determined that additional studies were necessary to establish the true risks of BPA exposure. Currently, the FDA acknowledges a cause for concern regarding the potential effects BPA has on the health of fetuses, infants and small children. Additionally, the FDA supports further research and is supporting actions to reduce exposure to BPA.
How To Avoid BPA
Given the controversy and need for additional research, many people are choosing to steer clear of BPA. However, finding BPA-free products might be a challenge. Many manufacturers are choosing to label their products as BPA-free, while others may have a number 7 molded into the bottom of the container. Here are a few ways to reduce BPA exposure:
- Use caution when microwaving. To be on the safe side, avoid microwaving food in polycarbonate plastic because as it heats up, the chemicals break down and BPA can be emitted into your food.
- Avoid washing polycarbonate plastics in the dishwasher.
- Use alternate methods to store food. Consider glass, porcelain, or stainless steel.
- Decrease your use of canned goods. Many cans are lined with a resin containing BPA.
- If purchasing bottled water, look for manufacturers who sell glass water bottles or those that label their bottles as BPA-free.
Eating fresh foods whenever possible is one of the most effective ways to eliminate BPA from your diet. A diet that consists mostly of whole foods and is not comprised mainly of processed and packaged foods significantly cuts back on BPA exposure.
Whether or not BPA can accumulate in your body through the handling of products that are made with the chemical or by eating food that has been heated or stored in a polycarbonate container is still shrouded with controversy. The bottom line, for now, is that if in fact BPA can cause harm to humans, that harm is much greater and detrimental to fetuses, infants and young children. If you are concerned with BPA exposure, take steps to reduce your child or your family’s contact with BPA products.
The research into BPA exposure is ongoing. With varying opinions it is difficult to determine if BPA exposure is truly a cause for alarm. When in doubt, the logical thing to do is to avoid BPA whenever possible. Whenever possible, always choose BPA-free bottles, cups and containers to store food.