Bisphenol-A, or BPA as it is more familiarly known, is a carbon-based synthetic compound used in the making of clear, hard plastics that has been in use for over 50 years. Over the last decade, it has come under fire for potential health risks both here in the U.S. and abroad, with many countries banning it from use altogether. Here in the States, the FDA banned BPA in the use of baby-bottles and sippy cups in 2012, despite their assurances that it is safe in “low levels” of exposure. So, what’s the big deal?
While research is ongoing, the bottom line with BPA is better safe than sorry. Since the 1930s, scientists have known that BPA acts as a synthetic estrogen, categorizing it as an endocrine disruptor. The FDA, which previously approved the use of BPA as safe at low levels, has more recently expressed “some concern” over the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children. They also expressed some “minimal concern” for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol-A. Additional studies suggest links between BPA and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, behavioral problems, reproductive disorders, various cancers, liver abnormalities and growth defects in infants and children; studies on animals have shown that exposure to BPA creates permanent damage which spans generations.
With concerns like this being raised, many companies (including Wild Oats!) are making their packaging BPA-free. While labeling for BPA-free is still scarce, you can use the below tips and tricks to avoid it:
- Check plastic bottles for the number 7 (most plastic products have an embossed number that indicates type; 7 indicates the presence of BPA)Choose fresh foods or glass containers over canned foods if you cannot determine whether they are BPA-free (and avoid highly acidic canned products such as tomato paste!)
- Avoid paper receipts where possible, and wash your hands often. New reports suggest that receipts, and some recycled papers contain BPA, which is absorbed through the skin
- Push your local representatives for labeling- in April 2013, California passed Prop 65 which imposes restrictions on the use of BPA. While it is not a complete ban, it does make it easier for consumers to make informed choices. To learn more about legislation in your state: http://www.saferstates.com/toxics_in_our_lives/chemicals_of_concern/BPA.html
If you are concerned about BPA that may be in your system (and testing indicates that 90% of the population does), don’t despair: A 2011 study showed that changing dietary habits can significantly reduce the amount of BPA in the body in as few as three days, if one switches to an entirely “fresh food diet.” Eliminating canned foods, switching to glass containers (and avoiding contact with the metal lids, which have been found to contain BPA) are all ways to minimize contact.
Want to do more? Bottom line, there is much work to be done on vetting the safety and toxicity of chemicals introduced to the food supply. Consumer advocacy and pushback are the number one way to influence these policies, so staying up to date on the latest information, purchasing only products that do not contain these chemicals, and involvement at the local and state levels of government are the most effective forms of advocacy.
To learn more about BPA: