Bisphenol A, BPA, hormone-disruptor, endocrine-disruptor, whatever term you want to use, they get a lot of negative press and for good reason - it's toxic.
After all the negative media attention, manufacturers quickly moved to calm consumer fears and to protect their declining sales. There was a rapid influx of heavily marketed BPA-free products to hit the shelves. Consumers bought it in mass, assuming it was safer. But many manufacturers simply swapped out BPA for BPF and BPS, 2 lesser known chemicals in the same class, which research has since shown are not any safer.
What is BPA? Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical used to make plastic storage containers, food packaging. The epoxy resin is also used to line paper coffee cups, canned food and even some stainless steel food containers and water bottles. These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen, resulting in significant health consequences.
What are the health implications of BPA? With over 150 peer-reviewed scientific studies, and over 1000 animal studies, the estrogen-mimicking hormone disruption is linked to disorders such as early onset puberty, fertility issues, breast/prostate cancers and ADHD, and the negative health effects are most pronounced in rapidly growing bodies of fetus, infant, children. The collection of data was so robust that Health Canada and the US FDA both took action.
"On October 18, 2008, the Government of Canada released its final assessment report, including the Government's proposed risk management strategies, to ensure that Canadian exposure to BPA is kept as low as possible, particularly for newborns and infants." (Health Canada website)
US FDA followed in 2012;
"Recently, FDA granted two petitions requesting that FDA amend its food additive regulations to no longer provide for the use of certain BPA-based materials in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging because these uses have been abandoned. As a result, FDA amended its food additive regulations to no longer provide for these uses of BPA. (US Food and Drug Administration website)
In the meantime, while countries decide on additional bans, here are 5 simple recommendations to reduce exposure to BPA and its substitutes:
#1 No heat on BPA surfaces- The number one way that BPA/BPS leaches, is with heat. A study from the University of Cincinnati found that plastic bottles leached 55x more BPA when boiling water was poured into them vs room temperature water. This one change alone can drastically reduce your BPA exposure. BPA is cumulative too, so reduce everywhere you can, especially with daily routines. This includes heat from hot food or drinks, microwaves, dishwashers, sunlight ( in cars, at picnics, even on the kitchen counter). Let hot food cool completely before storing it in plastic containers.
#2 Reduce canned foods- Almost all canned foods have a resin sealant which contains BPA lining the interior of the can. This includes canned baby formula, canned tomato sauce, veggies and even soda cans. When possible, choose glass jars over cans. As a helpful guide, here are 10 canned foods to avoid, as provided by the Breast Cancer Fund.
#3 Food storage- Consider using non-porous containers like stainless steel or glass for storing food. If using plastic, ensure you keep it out of heat (see #1). It's important to note that not all stainless steel is BPA free. Some stainless steel lunch containers have an interior seam and similar to canned foods, they require the thin film of epoxy resin to protect the from the chemicals used to join the seam. Look for seamless designs which don’t require any protective resin sealants.
#4 Avoid storing acidic and fatty foods in plastic- Acidic foods like tomato sauce, coconut curries or oil dressings degrade the plastic. This explains the residual stains and odours that remain even after washing. Where there is leaching into the plastic (stains and odours in the plastic), there is leaching out of the plastic too (chemicals leaching into your food).
#5 Check it, Toss it! Don’t hold on to plastic for too long. All plastic breaks down over time and at an increased rate with high-frequency use. The more it breaks down, the greater the leaching. If you see stains- toss it! Retained odours- toss it! Scratches, cracks, warps in the plastic- toss it! Single use containers like margarine containers, large yogurt containers- toss them. They aren't designed for repeat use.
Even if we aren't ready to part with all of our plastic just yet, these small changes can have a big impact on our overall exposure to BPA and other chemicals.
What changes will you implement? Share your thoughts, share this blog.