Image by Daquella manera via Flickr
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical additive that is used in many things but mainly in plastics and linings of food cans. Up until a few years ago this was considered a harmless addition to our already high chemical exposure levels. Then, it was found that exposure to this chemical is linked to serious side effects but you could avoid any consequences by not reusing that Poland Spring bottle, by not overheating your plastics in the microwave or by buying BPA free merchandise. Now we are finding out that our largest exposure to BPA is our food itself.
BPA has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, male infertility and other health problems. Recently a U.N. panel concluded that the BPA in the packaging of our foods is actually leaching into the food making our food the number one source of exposure. This should not be surprising. One only needs to see the aftermath of the oil spill in the gulf to see that chemicals can get everywhere given the opportunity.
Information is limited on BPA. It certain amounts it poses threats to fetuses, infants and growing children. No one is quite sure what it does to adults. For me, that’s enough. If you didn’t know if a gun was loaded, would you point it at someone and pull the trigger? Hopefully not and this is similar. Just because we don’t know if it’s dangerous and the government is unwilling to take a stand on it just yet, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be eliminated from our food supply.
This is just another reason to eat an unprocessed, natural diet. Because this exposure of BPA is coming from foods that are packaged it can be avoided to some degree. Eat a diet that is high in healthy protein, fats and vegetables and fruits. Stay away from the packaged food as much as possible. Not only will you avoid BPA but you’ll also get all the great benefits of a healthy diet!
Bisphenol A of BPA is a chemical that is used in plastics and in the lining of cans. It is what is known as a xeno-estrogen. That means that it mimics the human hormone estrogen. It is so widely used that virtually all Americans have likely been exposed. In fact, one study found that BPA could be detected in the urine of 95% of adults. (Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 113, Number 4, April 2005.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report in September 2008 concluding that there was cause for “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures.”
Other studies have linked BPA to a host of cancers, early onset puberty, obesity and type II diabetes. Current research suggests that it can be harmful in extremely low quantities – parts per trillion – yet most people are exposed to levels 10 to 100 times greater than that. This is another example of an chemical that has made its way into our lives and continues to be there despite good evidence that it is dangerous.
But how exactly does it get from the plastic to us? It’s called leaching. As the plastic begins to break down, the BPA leaches out of the plastic and we ingest the chemical. This process is sped up greatly by heating. So as you wash that baby bottle in hot water you are actually speeding up the degradation of the plastic and increasing the leaching of BPA. A good rule of thumb is that the hotter the wash or the older the bottle the more BPA will leach.
The problem is that the group of people that is probably most at risk are infants and small children which is precisely the people who will be feeding out of a bottle. Small children are most at risk because their bodies are growing rapidly. Rapidly growing cells are always more susceptible to damage from toxins than mature cells that have finished growing. This is true of any chemical, not just BPA. BPA alters the way genes are activated in the cells of rats. These cells, according to scientists, are very similar to human cells. When these cells are exposed to amounts of BPA that a baby would receive from a plastic bottle they divide quicker and eventually cause cancer.
So what can you do? Below is a link to a great website that has tips on what you can do to avoid BPA exposure. Fortunately, most responsible companies have moved away from using it in their products, but that doesn’t change what is already on the shelf.
I believe this is a major problem and BPA should be eliminated from all materials that are to be used in any form of human consumption. The research is there and it’s clear that there is at least something to be concerned about. My patients often ask me about this and the best way to avoid exposure for your baby is to breast feed. If you do need a bottle from time to time, buy glass bottles or buy a BPA free bottle – they are available.