In 2008, the Washington Post made national headline news with its front-page news article about the dangers of BPA (Bisphenol-A), a chemical used to make sealants and a hard clear plastic called polycarbonate.
The FDA investigated, but according to their most recent safety assessment in 2014, still considers BPA safe at the current levels occurring in foods. However, this did not stop them in 2012 from amending their regulations to “No longer provide” for the use of BPA-based polycarbonate resins in baby bottles, sippy cups, or coatings used in packaged baby formula. The FDA stressed this course of action was not based on safety (which explains the confusing wording) but because the use of BPA in baby products has been permanently and completely abandoned.
But BPA is still widely used in millions of other commercial products, including cell phones, food containers, toys, water main pipes, canned foods, and receipt paper.
Even more worryingly, use of BPA is growing at a rate of over 3% per year; in 2019, more than 9 million tonnes were produced. This is despite more than 800 studies showing that exposure to this synthetic estrogen has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, breast and prostate cancer, infertility and birth defects, and delayed or otherwise disrupted puberty. Most recently, a study in July 2020 associated BPA use with more severe asthma symptoms in children.
Unfortunately, some products that market themselves as BPA-free may not be any better. BPS (bisphenol-S), has replaced BPA in many plastics, but according to a 2014 report from the EPA, BPS may pose similar risks to BPA because the two chemicals are structurally alike and BPS is also easily transferred to the skin.
So what can you do to limit you and your loved one’s exposure to BPA or BPS?
- Eat fresh or frozen foods instead of canned foods
- Buy products packaged in glass or ceramic containers or in cardboard brick-shaped cartons (cartons made by Tetra Pak or SIG Combibloc do not contain BPA)
- Only use BPA-free plastic containers labeled with a 1, 2, or 5
- Replace all baby bottles, sippy cups, or water bottles made before 2011
- Limit the amount of plastic toys your baby plays with and try to discourage your baby from putting them in his/her mouth
- Throw away in the garbage or recycling bin all cracked or scratched or misshapen plastic containers, as more BPA is released when plastic is damaged
- Do not put plastic containers into the dishwasher to prevent scratching
- Use glass or unlined stainless-steel water bottles
- Only heat food in glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel containers. Never put plastic in the microwave. Heat leaches more BPA into foods and liquids
- Wash your hands after handling receipts and consider wearing gloves when handling a lot of receipts.
- Quirós-Alcalá L, Hansel N, McCormack M et al. Exposure to bisphenols and asthma morbidity among low-income urban children with asthma. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. July 28, 2020, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.202
- Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application. US Food and Drug Administration. Updated 2014 https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/bisphenol-bpa-use-food-contact-application
- Common Chemical Used in Plastics May Be Far More Prevalent in Humans Than Previously Thought, Says New Study Dec 9, 2019, TIME magazine https://time.com/5744817/bpa-levels-in-humans/
- Global Bisphenol-A Market Report 2018: Analysis 2013-2017 & Forecasts 2018-2023 Cision PR Newswire Research and Markets. Nov 29, 2018, 12:15 ET https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-bisphenol-a-market-report-2018-analysis-2013-2017–forecasts-2018-2023-300757673.html
- Three ways ‘BPA-free’ won’t protect you. Environmental Defense Fund https://www.edf.org/health/three-ways-bpa-free-wont-protect-you
- 2014 Updated safety assessment of Bisphenol A (BPA) for use in food contact applications. Department of Health and Human Services. June 17, 2014. https://www.fda.gov/media/90124/download