How and Why to Purchase BPA Free Items

What Is BPA?

BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s and can be found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are regularly used in food and beverage containers. While on the other hand, epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products. Some of these metal products include food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines. BPA can also be found in some dental sealants and composites.

Why Is Everyone Worried About BPA?

Some research has shown that BPA containers can actually seep BPA into the food and liquids they are containing. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of a multitude of possible health effects. BPA has been shown to have effects on the brain, and the behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children. 

Despite the results of current research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. This assessment is based on a review of hundreds of studies. But the FDA is continuing its review of BPA, including supporting ongoing research.

Dangers and Side effects of BPA

BPA can behave similarly to estrogen and other hormones in the human body and can be considered an endocrine disruptor. BPA can interfere with the production, secretion, transport, action, function, and elimination of natural hormones. Additionally, the effects of BPA are said to be especially potent in infants and young children.

The following is a list of potential medical complications associated with BPA:  

Reproductive Disorders:

In 2013, scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital published findings showing that BPA exposure can affect egg maturation in humans. Additionally, a study published in 2015, found evidence that BPA can interfere with endocrine function involving the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Unfortunately, these studies reported that these interactions can affect puberty and ovulation, and that it may lead to infertility. The authors continue and report that "The detrimental effects on reproduction may be lifelong and transgenerational."

On the other end of the spectrum, males are also at risk from BPA exposure. Findings indicated that high-level exposure to BPA may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction and result in problems with sexual desire and ejaculation.

Heart Disease:

Research has also linked that even low doses of BPA exposure can result in cardiovascular problems. Some of these problems include coronary artery heart disease, angina, heart attack, hypertension, and peripheral artery disease.

Type 2 Diabetes and Body Weight:

There is evidence that low-level exposure to BPA could contribute to insulin resistance and therefore diabetes type 2.

Fetal Brain Development:

Environmental exposure to BPA has the potential to affect the developing brain during gestation, according to research. 

Breast and Prostate Cancer:

Due to its estrogen-like behavior, BPA could increase the risk of breast, prostate, and other cancers in people who were exposed to it in the womb. In 2015, a group of researchers concluded that "Fetal exposure to BPA could lead to "long-lasting" effects on the carcinogenesis of certain organs," potentially leading to the development of hormone-related cancers.

Asthma:

Exposure to BPA before birth increased the risk of wheezing and asthma. These symptoms were more evident if it occurred during the second trimester. This information is based on a systematic review published in 2016.

Common Items with BPA

When people think of BPA, they usually think of toxic plastic, this is only partially true. BPA is a plastic component but can be found in a variety of different items. The following is a quick list of popular places where BPA is used. 

  • Canned foods: Most metal cans are lined with a sealant containing BPA.
  • Sports water bottles: If bought prior to July 2012, it may contain BPA.
  • Baby bottles: May contain BPA if bought prior to July 2011.
  • Sippy cups: May contain BPA if bought prior to July 2011.
  • Baby pacifiers: Again, these may contain BPA if bought prior to July 2011.
  • Other hard, clear plastic food or beverage containers
  • Cash register receipts: Some manufacturers make “BPA free” thermal paper, but instead it’s often coated with a chemical called BPS. According to a 2014 report from the EPA, BPS can have a similar impact on health as BPA. 

How to Reduce Your Risk of BPA Exposure

Simply put, the best way to reduce your BPA exposure is to completely avoid products that contain BPA. We have put together a short list of places and ways to decrease your BPA exposure. 

Food Choices:
  • Eat fresh and frozen foods instead of foods stored in cans.
  • Purchase foods packaged in glass containers, ceramic containers or cardboard brick-shaped cartons.
  • When purchasing cardboard packaging, look on the bottom to see if it was made by Tetra Pak or SIG Combibloc.
Food Containers Already at Home:
  • Replace pre-2011 baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, and other hard, clear plastic food storage containers.
  • Throw away or recycle your cracked and scratched plastic containers.
  • Use glass or unlined stainless steel water bottles.
  • Keep plastic containers labeled with a 1, 2 or 5. These numbed plastics do not contain BPA.
  • Dispose of plastic containers labeled with a 7 inside the recycle symbol.  
Safer Practices for Food Containers Made of Polycarbonate:
  • Use polycarbonate plastic for cold storage and for non-food items.
  • Heat food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers. In polycarbonate containers, heat leaches more BPA into foods and liquids.
  • Wash polycarbonate containers by hand instead of in the dishwasher to prevent scratching. Scratching releases more BPA.
Safer Practices for Receipts:
  • Wash your hands after handling receipts.
  • Consider putting gloves on before handling a lot of receipts.

Pros and Cons of BPA Free Products

Pros: 
  • Prevents interactions between canned food and the cans themselves.
    • Canned food without a liner will eventually corrode the can.
Cons:
  • Negative impact on a number of anatomical and physiological systems.

Are BPA Free Plastics Safe?

But BPA free plastics are safe, right? Nope, think again. It turns out that BPA free plastics can be just as toxic. How can this be? The toxic chemical has been removed from the plastic, how can it possibly be toxic? The problem is that BPA free items often contain other chemicals that behave in a similar manner. BPA and these chemicals both will slowly seep out of the container and enter the food or liquid it is containing. And just like BPA, these chemicals also mimic the hormone estrogen. Thus, they increase the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and negatively impact the reproductive system.

In the largest and most comprehensive test of plastic products, researchers at the plastics-testing company CertiChem examined 455 plastic products. In this study, they discovered that nearly all the items, including those marketed as BPA-free, leached chemicals that mimicked estrogen. Although, this study revealed that some plastics seeped fewer chemicals than other plastics. The bottom line is that no plastic is safe, some are just safer than others.

The FDA’s Current Stance on BPA

In 2012, the FDA banned BPA for use in baby bottles and kids' sippy cups. But unfortunately, the agency has since deemed that BPA is safe in low doses for adults. They argue that humans absorb too little of the chemicals in plastics to cause any harm. With that being said, food and drug testing are rarely performed on pregnant or soon to be pregnant women. Seeing as most of the health impacts of BPA involve an unborn child, we are missing an important aspect in these studies.

Future of BPA in Plastics

With the current trend of consumers avoiding BPA products, manufacturers will have no choice but to remove BPA from their products. Therefore, the future of BPA is limited at best. It is highly doubtful that BPA will ever be as widely used as it was back in the 60’s and 70’s. despite all of its potential medical complications, BPA is still an excellent binder and liner. Therefore, it is also hard to believe that it will ever be completely removed from packaging. So be smart and consider what you buying and what its container is made of. And unfortunately, as we have discussed in this article, there is still no safe plastic out there. Consider buying glass or cardboard containers to completely avoid any chemical interactions from plastics.

Conclusion

Currently, there are massive efforts in removing BPA from plastic items. This movement has largely been caused by informed and concerned consumers. The negative effects of BPA have been tested and retested, and they are real. But what about BPA free plastics, should you still use them? Well, the option is yours. As we have discussed in this article, there is no safe plastic, but rather, some plastic is safer than others. To completely avoid any exposure to harmful chemicals associated with food containers, don't buy plastic. Fortunately, in today's world, there are a number of holistic food stores that complete avoid plastic containers. Remember, buy fresh produce, use glass or cardboard packaging, and avoiding any form of plastic. Are you willing to give up plastic in your life?

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Tyler Farr
 

Tyler is an energetic nature enthusiast who is currently considering moving into a tiny house. Tyler and his wife enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and doing anything in the great outdoors. He hopes that the articles he writes will help others learn how important it is to take care of the environment.

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