What is BPA?
BPA stands for Bisphenol A. BPA is a chemical that has been used in making certain plastics and epoxy resins since the late 1950’s. BPA is often found in the type of polycarbonate plastic used to make food storage containers, water bottles, plastic cups, baby bottles and many other plastic products. The epoxy resin used to line the insides cans for canned foods contains BPA. BPA residue can even be detected in the epoxy used in some dental sealants.
Why should we be concerned?
Studies focusing on the possible adverse effects of BPA began to increase and gain more attention in the late 1990’s. In 2010 the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announce it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children” (FDA 2010). At this time the FDA began to launch initiatives to reduce BPA in our environment, especially in relation to contact with food. In 2010, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles but in 2012 denied a petition to ban BPA in all food and beverage packaging.
Studies show that BPA seeps from the containers and packaging into the food and beverages that they hold. The FDA acknowledges that this occurs but claims that due to the low levels of BPA released into the food it is still safe. However, the FDA continues to monitor the research on the impacts of BPA. Some research shows that heating plastic, by heating a container made with BPA in a microwave or leaving a water bottle in the hot sun for example, actually increases the amount of BPA released into the food.
How much BPA is too much?
The FDA has said that BPA is safe at very low levels for human exposure. BPA is so common in today’s environment that a 2004 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of study participants. How much is too much varies. The European Union set a limit of 600 parts per billion (ppb) of BPA per kilogram of food, Japan’s limit is 2,500 ppb. Meanwhile France has suspended production, import export and marketing of BPA packaging coming into direct contact with food setting its safe level at 0.0025ppb per day.
What are the effects of BPA?
Research shows that the negative impacts of ingesting BPA may include:
· Altering brain function
· Behavioral changes
· Impacts gland functioning
· Disruptions of the endocrine system
· Adverse effects on breast development
· Contributes to obesity – impacts metabolism
· Contributing factor in neurological and immune disorders
Studies show that infants and children are especially sensitive to the effects of BPA because their systems are more sensitive and therefore more susceptible to BPA.
How can we minimize the levels of BPA that we ingest?
While Both the FDA and the European Food and Safety Authority continue to research and monitor the effects of BPA on our health we can still take proactive steps to minimize the levels of BPA we ingest by implementing these steps:
1. Use BPA free products. The Organic Health Store and many other vendors offer a variety of BPA free products for the informed consumer.
2. Reduce the use of canned foods. Substitute fresh, frozen or dried food for canned food.
3. Rinsing canned foods in water may help lower the level of BPA in the food to a degree.
4. Seek out canned products that use BPA Free Lining. Eden Organic, Vital Choice, Wild Planet, Native Forrest, Amy’s, Farmer’s Market, and Tyson are just a few of the brands that use BPA Free packaging. However companies do not always label their BPS free canned food products.
5. Avoid heating food and beverages in plastic containers. The heat from the microwave or dishwasher causes plastics containing BPA to break down and over time increase the amounts of BPA released into the foods they contain.
6. Use Glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for storage and serving.
7. Take special care to minimize exposure to BPA for infants and children.
8. Discard older baby bottles and plastic cups that contain BPA and replace with newer BPA free containers.
9. Remain vigilant and keep informed. Be aware of new research findings and of new BPA free products as they are introduced to consumers.
What can we do to encourage companies to be proactive in going ‘BPA Free’?
Many companies are beginning to take proactive steps to remove BPA from food packaging, even without government regulation forcing them to do so. As consumers we can take steps to encourage companies to take action by asking for the BPA status of products, if it is not already disclosed. We can reward companies that have already taken steps to remove BPA by purchasing their products, providing positive customer reviews and promoting these companies through on social media. Until more is known about the effects of BPA and what levels are safe for humans, it is wise to exercise caution. Make safety a priority for you and your family by being proactive in reducing the BPA in your environment.