What Is BPA? Where Is It Found? Is It Safe? The Full Truth
There has been a lot of talk about BPA and how it poses a threat to the health of the fetuses, infants, and children. The danger of the presence of chemicals in our foods is a very talked about subject. BPA, in particular, seems to be in the forefront, with some experts going as far as saying that it is simply toxic and that it should be avoided at all costs. But what is BPA? Is BPA as toxic as it is rumored to be?
Naturally, there are BPA-free products on the market but what exactly does that mean? So, in this article, we’re going to look at these concerns and determine if your child’s safety is truly at risk.
What is BPA? And Why is it Bad?
According to Mayo Clinic:
“BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s”.
So, the presence of this chemical is more or less inescapable. Bisphenol A is part of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are modeled into containers that can store food and water bottles. Epoxy resins coat the inside of metal containers such as food cans and even water supply lines. Therefore, the concern about contamination is valid.
Other items containing BPA are electronic devices, CDs and DVDs, sports equipment and even some sealants used in dentistry. However, there is no risk of contamination coming from usual household items.
Bisphenol A can only enter the body through ingestion. When the containers are made, the chemical is not entirely sealed and it can get into the food or beverage. That is why having a healthier diet that includes avoiding canned products is a sure way to cut BPA ingestion.
What is BPA in terms of chemistry? The debate over the toxicity of BPA comes from the concern of the effects of the chemical on the brain and behavior of the fetus or infant. This is mainly because BPA can mimic the function of an estrogen hormone. This way, it can bind to estrogen receptors causing changes in bodily processes concerning cell repair, reproduction and, of course, the development of the fetus.
Because the human body is very sensitive to hormonal changes, the chemical is said to be harmful.
Studies posted in the US National Library of Medicine have shown that serving canned foods daily, five days a week, increase the levels of BPA in urine 1,221% more than consuming fresh produce. Another study followed the results of only 3 days of avoiding canned foods and measured a 66% decrease of BPA in the urine of the participants.
BPA Effects in Men and Women
What is BPA doing to the human body? Studies concerning pregnant women have yielded grim results as well. According to different amounts of BPA found in the bloodstream, women have had miscarriages and generally have a lower egg production that might impede fertility treatments. Conversely, men with high BPA levels in their bloodstream are more likely to produce low-quality embryos if they are undergoing the in vitro fertility procedure. Of course, sperm concentration and count are also lower and workers from BPA manufacturing companies reported erectile difficulties.
BPA Effects in Infants
What is BPA exposure doing to infants? While studies on fetuses exposed to the BPA chemical are not completely conclusive, they have proven links between BPA exposure and hormonal development. Mothers exposed to the chemical are more likely to give birth to babies who weigh less than normal and present changes in the anogenital distance which show disrupted hormonal development. Mothers can also be predisposed to giving birth early.
Moreover, children whose parents have been exposed to the chemical reported more signs of ADHD and aggressiveness and are under the risk of developing asthma later in life.
Can We Avoid BPA Exposure?
Among the debates, markets have introduced BPA-free products. However, the alternatives are either Bisphenol S or Bisphenol F, which in essence are still chemical products. Currently, the effects of these substitutes are still being studied so it is still not an issue free of concern. These substitutes are marked with recycling codes 3, 7 or with the PC letters. Keep in mind, however, these might leak into the contents as well.
What to Do
Avoiding BPA completely might be impossible but you can reduce the exposure drastically.
- Replace plastics with glass: Instead of buying plastic bottles, try and buy beverages that come in glass bottles. The same goes for baby bottles, try the glass or stainless steel sippy cups.
- Avoid canned foods: Try to avoid canned foods as much as possible or meals found in plastic containers. Look for recycling number 3, 7 or the PC code to make sure what you are buying is indeed BPA-free. Fresh produce is your best substitute.
- Avoid exposing plastic to heat: Another way to avoid BPA contamination is to store containers away from direct sunlight. Intense heat can melt the chemicals from the plastic and leak them into your food. Make sure you store them safely. The same goes for microwaving the containers.
- Don’t reuse plastic: Try and not use the containers repeatedly. The dishwasher is not sanitizing the container completely. Prolonged use can lead to scratches that let the chemicals leak in time.
- Check the toy labels: Make sure to check the labels when buying your children toys and avoid the ones with BPA. This is especially important if the toddler usually chews on the plastic.
- Swap liquids for powders: Some recommend using powders instead of liquids if the container has BPA in its composition as powders are not as likely to absorb the chemical.
While the debate over the dangers of BPA is still ongoing, there is currently enough body of evidence that shows the chemical is not entirely risk-free. Reducing exposure as much as possible might be the best way to go about it. That is not to say that occasionally ingesting BPA from a container is a reason to visit your doctor.
For now, look for plastics 1, 2, 4 and 5 as these are safest. Remember to avoid reusing them over time and try to some make changes in your diet.